“Zika is now here,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Saturday.

Although many Americans had brought back infection from abroad already — over 1,600 known cases — until several infected people were recently tested for other transmission methods, no known cases of U.S. mosquito-borne Zika had existed, although it had been known that mosquitoes in the south of the country could carry the virus.

So far four Americans have been found to have contracted the virus by mosquitoes in the Miami area.

Health officials have said they do not expect infection to be as widespread as it has been in other countries because of better sanitation, mosquito control and use of window screens.

The biggest health concerns are for pregnant women.

“If I were a pregnant woman right now, I would go on the assumption that there’s mosquito transmission all over the Miami area,” warned Dr. Peter Hotez, a tropical medicine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.

In addition to four confirmed cases, medical authorities have said they expect there are many others already infected — and not just in Florida.

“This is not just a Florida issue. It’s a national issue – we just happen to be at the forefront,” said Governor Rick Scott.

PFAS Contaminated Water May Effect Many More People Than the 6 Million Reported

According to scientists, the number of Americans drinking PFAS-contaminated water may be much higher than the 6 million figure initially reported.

A recent Harvard Harvard study found that almost across 30 states tested, 194 of 4864 water supplies contained PFASs (perfluoroalkyl substances) — a chemical that has been around for 60 years and which is used for nonstick cooking utensils, as well as food packaging and firefighting foams.

The chemicals break down slowly and remain in our environment for a long time, including in drinking water.

PFASs have been linked to cancer and other health problrms.

The water supplies in a few states accounted for most of the contaminated sources: California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois, in order of contamination levels.

“For many years, chemicals with unknown toxicities, such as PFASs, were allowed to be used and released to the environment, and we now have to face the severe consequences,” lead author Xindi Hu, a doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and Environmental Science and Engineering at SEAS, said in a statement.

She said the number of water supplies contaminated with PFASs may be much higher than the 6 million initially reported, however.

“The actual number of people exposed may be even higher than our study found, because government data for levels of these compounds in drinking water are lacking for almost a third of the US population — about 100 million people,” she said.

Use of PFASs by large companies has led to many lawsuits. For example, DuPont is currently facing 3500 personal injury lawsuits for illegal dumping of PFOA byproducts (perflurooctanoic acid) into the Ohio Rive, leading to kidney and testicular cancer and other ailments, according to the plaintiffs.

Scientists Successful In Growing “Mini-Stomachs” That Produce Insulin When Transplanted

A team of researchers has succeeded in creating mini insulin-producing organs that can be implanted into a diabetic animal to maintain glucose levels, progress towards what they consider the future of regenerative medicine.

The cells the researchers found are best at producing insulin when reprogrammed are pylotic cells — cells from the lower region of the stomach, called the “pylorus region.”

They think that these cells work best because they are naturally very similar to the pancreatic beta cells that normally carry out this function. What they do better than other cells is respond to high glucose levels by producing insulin to normalize blood sugar levels.

diabetes

Engineered gastic mini organ – the green represents insulin cells and the blue gastric stem/progenitor cells

What the researchers first did with their mouse test subjects and what they think could be done for people are two different things.

With mice, the researchers initially reprogrammed cells in their stomachs with conversion genes to become beta cells, and then they destroyed the mice’s pancreatic beta cells, forcing their bodies to rely solely on the artificially created ones. While control mice died within eight weeks, mice possessing the reprogrammed cells lived as long as they were tracked (up to six months).

The researchers also found that pyloric cells had the advantage of naturally renewing themselves — when the researchers destroyed the cells they had created, new ones grew and produced insulin.

diabetes

Engineered stomach

This transgenic experiment would not be used as treatment for diabetes in people, however. Instead, the researchers set about to try something new: they grew tiny stomachs to produce insulin.

They took pyloric tissue out of mice, reprogrammed it to express beta-cell functions, grew the cells in the form of a tiny ball of insulin-producing “stomach,” and put the ball back into the mice. When they destroyed these mice’s pancreatic cells, the engineered organ implants compensated, maintaining normal levels of glucose in five of 22 test animals.

Senior author Dr. Qiao Zhou of the Harvard University Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology explained how they will bridge the gap from the current study to an application for people.

“We are working on two approaches to move this forward toward therapeutics,” Zhou told The Speaker. “One approach is to create engineered human stomach mini-organs from human iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells made from the fibroblasts of individual patients) that can produce insulin in culture, followed by transplantation. The other approach is to culture human stomach stem cells from patient biopsy samples, reprogram them into beta-cells in culture, and then transplant them back to the same person. We are making progress on both fronts.”

He also noted the promise offered by engineered therapeutic organs in general.

“The regenerative medicine field has been moving towards a very exciting future of making and engineering entire organs with a complex assembly of different cell types. It is still early but with enormous potential. These organs could replace or supplement the normal function of organs in our body that are failing due to disease or aging. Genetic and bioengineering could be further applied to endow the organs with new function. I believe this is very much the future of regenerative medicine.”

The researchers said they were excited about their success. Replacing insulin-producing pancreatic cells is something science has been trying to do for decades.

“The most surprising part of the study for me is that there are cells residing in your stomach that share surprising features with pancreatic beta-cells,” said Dr. Zhou. “They do not naturally make insulin, but I believe therapeutic methods can be found to “tickle” them to do so. If successfully, it will provide an new approach to treat diabetes.”

By Justin Munce
Images: The report
Report: Ariyachet et al.: “Reprogrammed stomach tissue as a renewable source of functional beta-cells for blood glucose regulation,” published in Cell.
Link to report

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