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A cure for the common cold? Stanford-UCSF researchers are close

October 15, 2019

Disabling a single, apparently noncritical protein in cells may deter the replication of viruses known to cause 50% f all common colds—as well as polio, asthma, encephalitis, and other diseases—according to researchers at Stanford University and UC-San Francisco.

Few of us escape without catching at least one rhinovirus during the winter—when germs breed freely in closed environments. There are roughly 160 known types of rhinovirus, which helps to explain why getting a cold doesn’t stop you from getting another one a month later. Making matters worse, rhinoviruses are highly mutation-prone and, as a result, quick to develop drug resistance, as well as to evade the immune surveillance brought about by previous exposure or a vaccine.

The recent academic findings about cold prevention were made in human cell cultures and in mice.

“Our grandmas have always been asking us, ‘If you’re so smart, why haven’t you come up with a cure for the common cold?’”said Jan Carette, associate professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford. “Now we have a new way to do that.”

In a study published online in the September 16 edition of Nature Microbiology, Carette and his associates found a way to stop a broad range of enteroviruses, including rhinoviruses, from replicating inside human cells in culture, as well as in mice. They accomplished this feat by disabling a protein in mammalian cells tha tall enteroviruses appear to need in order to replicate. 

Carette shares senior authorship with Or Gozani, MD, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford and the Dr. Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology; Raul Andino, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at UCSF; and Nevan Krogan, PhD, professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at UCSF. The lead authors are former Stanford graduate student Jonathan Diep, PhD, and Stanford postdoctoral scholars Yaw Shin Ooi, PhD, and Alex Wilkinson, PhD.

Research contact: @Stanford

People with dyslexia have the skills to future-proof the workforce, research claims

October 15, 2019

Companies can future-proof their workforces by employing people with dyslexia, new research has claimed, according to a report by CNBC.

In a report published Monday, the British consultancy division of Ernst & Young, EY, used data from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Made By Dyslexia—the latter, a global charity led by successful dyslexics—to outline how such people’s skills aligned with the competencies that would be required in the workplaces of the future.

What exactly is dyslexia? The Mayo Clinic describes it as “a learning disorder that involves difficult reading due to problems identify speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding).” Most dyslexics have above-average intelligence and social aptitude—and, therefore, are able to hide their reading and pronunciation problems without detection in many cases.

Referencing the WEF’s prediction of which skills would be the most in-demand by 2022, EY’s report highlighted how certain capabilities were becoming more and less useful to employers amid the rise of automation.

The need for processing and manual capabilities like time management, reading, mathematical calculations, and active listening were on the decline, according to the report, CNBC notes.

Meanwhile, creative and social skills such as leadership, analytical thinking and technology design—all of which are common in dyslexics—were increasingly in demand.

The report’s authors also highlighted a slew of capabilities and skills typically seen in people with dyslexia that would be vital to all industries by the year 2022.

“Overall, our analysis shows that competencies for a significant number of jobs in the workplace that dyslexic individuals may typically find challenging will largely be impacted by forms of automation,” the report’s authors said.

“In their place, enhanced tasks and new jobs will be created that match closely to the strengths of dyslexic thinking. Dyslexia could provide an opportunity for organizations to bridge the skills gap of the future.”

Earlier this month, CNBC reports, billionaire Sir Richard Branson credited dyslexia for some of his success as an entrepreneur, noting that people with the condition possessed the “skills of the future.”

“My dyslexia has shaped Virgin right from the very beginning and imagination has been the key to many of our successes,” he said in a blog post. “It helped me think big but keep our messages simple. The business world often gets caught up in facts and figures—and while the details and data are important, the ability to dream, conceptualize and innovate is what sets the successful and the unsuccessful apart.”

Research contact: @CNBC

Ominous video at #AMPFest19 shows Trump ‘offing’ reporters in ‘Church of Fake News’

October 15, 2019

A video depicting a macabre scene of a fake President Donald Trump shooting, stabbing, and brutally assaulting members of the news media and his political opponents inside a Church of Fake News was shown at a conference for his supporters at his Miami resort, the Trump National Doral, last week, according to footage obtained by The New York Times.

According to the Times’ report on October 13, the video combines a series of memes and shows the president’s head superimposed on a mass shooter’s body. The president in the video then goes on to slaughter his political and media critics.

The conference was organized by American Priority, a pro-Trump group, and it was attended by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was speaking at the event, and the President’s son, Donald Trump, Jr.—neither of whom would admit to seeing the video, which supposed “was shown in a side room at #AMPFest 19,” the organization said.

In its official statement, AMP describes the video as “unauthorized” and says that it was never “approved, seen, or sanction by the #AMPFest 19 organizers,” who were “not even aware of the video until they were contacted by the NYT.”

The extremely violent video can be seen in this embedded tweet.

After news of the video broke, many politicians took to Twitter to condemn the video, including Democratic presidential candidate @Beto O’Rourke, who said: “ At a conference of Trump supporters, they played a video of our president murdering journalists in a church. Last year, a Trump supporter sent bombs to CNN—and a shooter entered a church yesterday. This video isn’t funny. It will get people killed.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) added his own outrage, tweeting: “Every mother and father in America should watch video. Play it all the way to end. Know that this is the re-election message of your President. And then ask yourself – how you sit your kids down and tell them you want this person to lead us. “

On Monday morning, the White House Press Secretary (@PressSec) Stephanie Grisham weighed in, trying to distance the president from the violent clip, which contained a Trump campaign logo. She tweeted, “Re: the video played over the weekend: The @POTUS @realDonaldTrump has not yet seen the video, he will see it shortly, but based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns this video.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Have a bone to pick? Difficult or stressful relationships are linked to bone loss by researchers

October 11, 2019

When life is hard, women’s bones may get more malleable: Those are the findings of a study posted recently by the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

The study findings, which were posted online on July 9, established that women who reported high levels of social stress were more apt to develop a lower bone density over time, reports Harvard Health..

Researchers enrolled more than 11,000 postmenopausal women in the study, and asked them to fill out a questionnaire about their social anxiety levels; and to take a bone density measurement test.

At a follow-up appointment fully six years later, women who had reported high levels of stress at the initial interview showed a bigger decline in bone density, compared with participants who initially had reported lower stress levels.

 This was true even after the researchers adjusted for other factors that may affect bone health, such as age, weight, smoking, alcohol use, and education, among others.

The authors speculated that stress may harm bone health because stress leads to higher blood cortisol levels, a well-established reason for lower bone density. Further study is needed to understand and confirm the results.

Research contact: @HarvardHealth

Adidas by Stella McCartney now sells a post-mastectomy sports bra

October 11, 2019

For the hundreds of thousands of U.S. women who have gone through single or double mastectomies, finding sports bras that are comfortable and look appropriate for a gym can turn into an epic and less-than-fruitful search.

The good news for them is that Adidas by Stella McCartney unveiled on Monday its first ever Post-Mastectomy, Yahoo News reports.

The post-operative bra has been designed by Stella in collaboration with bra consultant Monica Harrington, who has worked closely with breast cancer patients and has an extensive knowledge of their needs post-surgery.

The result of this partnership is a bra that prioritizes comfort and support, while also offering Stella’s signature sleek style and Adidas technology.

To tailor the bra to women who have undergone breast cancer surgery, Stella has added four unique design features, including:

  • An easy-to-use front fastening closure for women with restricted movement post-mastectomy,
  • Front pockets with removable pads to keep prosthetics in place during workouts,
  • Adjustable straps and a wide underband for high support and improved fit, and
  • Strategically placed seams around the arms to reduce any irritation to the skin, which can become sensitive due to surgical scarring.

British professional boxer Michele Aboro –who herself is a breast cancer survivor, as well as a mother and a mentor— is featured in the new campaign, says Yahoo. 

“After my surgery I felt lost. As a professional athlete, I was used to relying on my body but after my mastectomy, I started to lose belief in myself and how my body would react. When I was ready to get back into fitness, I couldn’t find a sports bra that didn’t require being pulled over my head or lacked in support. Now I wear the Post-Mastectomy Sports Bra every time I train — it is comfortable and supportive and has helped me build back my confidence to get back into the game,” Michele explains.

With the cause one which is close to Stella’s heart, following the loss of her mother, Linda McCartney to the disease, the designer hopes that the new post-operative bra will help give women the confidence to get back into sport following surgery, and help boost their physical and mental well-being.

“With the Post-Mastectomy Sports Bra, I really wanted to encourage women to take care of their health through wellness and self-care,” commented Stella. “This bra allows us to support recovering patients through the next phase of their journey; and hopefully, give them the confidence to get back into training. It has a cool and modern look that will help motivate the wearer, as well as assuring them, they are not odd one out in the gym.”

Research contact: @YahooNews

Democrats deploy new impeachment plan of attack after White House refuses to cooperate

October 11, 2019

House Democrats are now saying that they don’t need any help from the White House to make a case for impeachment, NBC News reports.

To circumvent Executive Branch efforts to impede and obstruct the House impeachment inquiry, Democrats have launched a fresh offensive: They intend to inundate the White House with subpoenas; as well as requests for interviews with people who no longer work in the administration.

Democrats issued additional subpoenas for testimony and relevant documents on October 10 to Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas —two associates of the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, both of whom are alleged to have helped Giuliani dig for dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine. They were requested to appear for depositions this Thursday and Friday before Congress, but before they could appear on Capitol Hill, they were arrested Wednesday night on charges tied to campaign finance violations, NBC News says.

Since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) formally announced the impeachment inquiry last month, Democrats have so far issued eight subpoenas—including those to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Rudy Giuliani, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Office of Management and Budget Acting Chief Russell Vought, and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland In addition, they have requested documents from Vice President Mike Pence.

However, few, if any, of the current administration leaders are expected to respond to the Democrat’s subpoenas and requests. Just this week, Ambassador Sondland declined to testify, on orders from the State Department and President Donald Trump.

Therefore, the Democrats are targeting former officials,  who are now private citizens, and would not fall under the White House ‘s claims of executive privilege. Kurt Volker, who recently resigned as U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, testified before Congress last week, several days after he left the administration.

On Monday, Trump’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill, volunteered to meet in a closed-door session with several congressional committees. A letter addressed to Hill, obtained by NBC, requested that she turn over several documents that date back to January 2017.

Congress returns next week from a two-week recess and Democrats are expected to speed up their investigation that could lead them filing articles of impeachment against the president. Two sources told NBC News that Pelosi will hold another caucus-wide conference call on Friday afternoon, so rank and file members can receive an update about the impeachment inquiry.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Foul ‘play’? Lawsuit accuses Fortnite developer of designing game to be addictive

October 10, 2019

Epic Games—the North Carolina-based software development company that banked more than $3 billion in profits in 2018, alone, off the game Fortnite, according to TechCrunch—has been accused in a lawsuit of designing the online video competition to be addictive.

The game—which is free to play, but makes money selling digital items—has about 250 million players worldwide; many of them, too obsessed to turn off their screens.

The Canadian lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, reportedly likens the game play to taking cocaine, in terms of dependency, CNET reported on October 7.

A legal notice was filed Friday in Quebec Superior Court accusing US-based Epic Games of designing the game specifically to hook users, Canada’s Global News reported on October 4. Players have had to seek treatment for their addiction, according to the complaint.

Indeed, the filing says, “The addiction to the Fortnite game has real consequences for the lives of players: Several don’t eat or shower, and no longer socialize.”

Jean-Philippe Caron, the lawyer who brought the lawsuit, alleged that the game’s creators enlisted the help of “psychologists to help make the game addictive.”

He accused Epic Games of failing to “warn about the risks and dangers inherent in their product.” Similar accusations have been lodged in lawsuits against tobacco companies.

Epic Games didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by CNET.

Research contact: @CNET

Cult skincare brand Drunk Elephant acquired by Shiseido for $845 million

October 10, 2019

Tokyo-based multinational personal care company Shiseido announced on October 8 that it will spend $845 million to acquire Drunk Elephant, the female-founded clean beauty brand that has become one of the fastest-growing prestige skincare companies in history, Forbes reported.

The business news outlet estimates that founder Tiffany Masterson, who will stay on with the brand under Shiseido as chief creative officer and president, will pocket roughly $120 million when the sale closes at the end of the year.

Drunk Elephant had net sales of close to $100 million last year. It’s been backed by San Francisco based private equity firm VMG since 2017. The brand first signaled it was open to an acquisition earlier this year, Forbes says.

Masterson founded Drunk Elephant in Houston in 2012 while she was a stay-at-home mom of four. With the help of a contract chemist, Masterson developed serums and creams formulated without what she deemed as the “suspicious six” ingredients: essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances, and sodium lauryl sulfate.

Drunk Elephant is now one of the top-selling brands at Sephora, its exclusive brick-and-mortar retailer.

“I don’t look at other brands. I don’t go into Sephora anymore,” Masterson told Forbes in 2017. “I don’t follow trends. I stay close to home and stay in my lane. I do what I need. I’m a consumer first.”

Research contact: @Forbes

Graham to gather signatures for letter to Pelosi saying GOP won’t impeach Trump over Ukraine call

October 10, 2019

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)—who has been playing the role of golf partner and crony-in-chief to President Donald Trump—on Wednesday said that he is sending a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to warn her that Senate Republicans won’t impeach the POTUS over his call with Ukraine, The Hill reported.

In an appearance on the Fox News morning show, Fox & Friends, Graham said that he would ask other Senate Republicans to sign the letter—claiming that GOP lawmakers “do not believe the transcript of the phone call between the president and the Ukraine is an impeachable offense.”

“They’re about to destroy the nation for no good reason,” Graham said, according to The Hill. “And I want Nancy Pelosi to know that Republican senators are not going to impeach this president based on this transcript, so she can stop now before she destroys the country.”

House Democrats are in the early stages of an impeachment inquiry into how and why Trump asked the Ukrainian government to work with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as well as with Attorney General Bill Barr, to provide dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden—while concurrently withholding $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in an effort to get Kiev to launch such a probe.

“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that; so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Trump told Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky during the July 25 call.

The White House ramped up the fight over the impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, sending a letter to Pelosi and the House committee chairs overseeing the investigation saying that it would refuse to cooperate further with the probe, The Hill said.

In the letter, the White House argued Democrats were pursuing a “constitutionally invalid” investigation of a duly elected president.

Graham, who is one of Trump’s most vocal allies on Capitol Hill, blasted House Democrats on Wednesday, saying they couldn’t “care less about fairness.”

Research contact: @thehill

Orthorexia: When ‘clean’ eating becomes an obsession

October 9, 2019

Besides his political views (“incorrect”), Bill Maher of HBO’s Real Time is known for his religious beliefs (none), his love of animals and children (complete and completely missing), and his views on how to stay healthy (“clean” eating).

In fact, in a 2017 interview with Esquire magazine, Maher took the writer to his kitchen and showed him “lunch,” which consisted of “Sesame seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, millet, barley, rye,” he said. “They’re very good for you. He mashed the seeds with water in a machine that looked like a coffee grinder. After the mixture was allowed to sit for a few hours, he added black cherry concentrate—and that was his midday meal.

While his diet may seem extreme, he is a member of a growing sector of the population that is committed to eating clean—whether that may be gluten-free, dairy-free, raw food, or all-organic. Their ethos: Choosing only whole foods in their natural state and avoiding processed ones will improve your health.

According to an October 7 report by NPR, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to eat this way, but sometimes these kinds of food preferences can begin to take over people’s lives, making them fear social events where they won’t be able to find the “right” foods. When a healthful eating pattern goes too far, it may turn into an eating disorder that scientists are just beginning to study.

However it is integrated into a person’s lifestyle, orthorexia is a fairly recent phenomenon. NPR notes that Dr. Steven Bratman, an alternative medicine practitioner in the 1990s, first coined the term in an essay in the nonscientific Yoga Journal in 1997. Many of his patients eschewed traditional medicine and believed that the key to good health was simply eating the “right” foods. Some of them would ask him what foods they should cut out.

“People would think they should cut out all dairy and they should cut out all lentils, all wheat … And it dawned on me gradually that many of these patients, their primary problem was that they were … far too strict with themselves,” Dr, Bratman recently told NPR.

So Bratman made up the name orthorexia, borrowing ortho from the Greek word meaning “right” and -orexia meaning “appetite.” He added nervosa as a reference to anorexia nervosa, the well-known eating disorder which causes people to starve themselves to be thin.

“From then on, whenever a patient would ask me what food to cut out, I would say, ‘We need to work on your orthorexia.’ This would often make them laugh and let them loosen up, and sometimes it helped people move from extremism to moderation,” he recalls.

Bratman had no idea that the concept of “clean eating” would explode over the next two decades.

Where dieters once gobbled down no-sugar gelatin or fat-free shakes, now they might seek out organic kale and wild salmon.

The rise of celebrity diet gurus and glamorous food photos on social media reinforce the idea that eating only certain foods and avoiding others is a virtue — practically a religion.

Dr. Sondra Kronberg, founder and executive director of the Eating Disorder Treatment Collaborative outside New York City, has seen a lot of diet trends over the past 40 years, she told NPR.

“So orthorexia is a reflection on a larger scale of the cultural perspective on ‘eating cleanly,’ eating … healthfully, avoiding toxins—including foods that might have some ‘super power,’ ” she says.

Now, Kronberg and other nutritionists applaud efforts to eat healthfully. The problem comes, she says, when you are so focused on your diet that “it begins to infringe on the quality of your life—your ability to be spontaneous and engage.” That’s when you should start to worry about an eating disorder, she told the news outlet.

“In the case of orthorexia, it centers around eating ‘cleanly’ and purely, where the other eating disorders center around size and weight and a drive for thinness,” she says.

Sometimes these problems overlap, and some people who only eat “clean” foods miss critical nutrients from the foods they cut out or don’t consume enough calories. “It could become a health hazard and ultimately, it can be fatal,” Kronberg says.

Orthorexia is not listed specifically in the DSM—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders— but that doesn’t mean it’s untreatable.

Eating disorders can strike anyone, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. If you think you have orthorexia or any eating disorder, it’s important to seek professional help and friends who support you, the association urges.

Research contact: @NPR