Neisseria meningitidis and Clumping

Neisseria meningitidis is a parasitic, aerobic, Gram-negative, non endospore forming, nonmotile (although piliated) , coccal bacterium that is responsible for causing meningitis, inflammation of the meninges layer covering the brain. Because it is an aerobic organism, like most members of the Neisseriaceae family, it also has catalase and oxidase activity. Colonies appear smooth, moist, and glistening (Rake). N. meningitidis resides primarily in humans on the surface of mucosal membranes such as those found in the respiratory tract. Progression through meningitis almost always follows after entering the blood stream (See Pathology below). Symptoms of this disease were first noted in 1805, having been described as an epidemic cerebrospinal fever (Vieusseaux) but it was not isolated until 1887 by Weichselbaum (Weichselbaum). In the U.S. every year, there are approximately 3000 to 4000 cases of N. meningitidis linked meningitis (Wong et al). Because this bacterium poses a health threat, genome sequencing has already begun for a few of these strains to enable deeper understanding of its mechanism of infection. This also provides for studies towards dealing with antibiotic resistant strains. 

Neisseria meningitidis, like most other members of the Neisseriaceae family are aerobic organisms with catalase and oxidase activity. One interesting observation made by Duong and Archibald was that in both N. gonorrhoeae and N. meningitidis, the superoxide dismutase (SOD) enzyme was not present. As a compensation for oxidative damage in a low pressure oxygen environment, N. gonorrhoeae’s natural environment, catalase activity was notably high in addition to high glutathione content (Archibald).

In terms of metabolism, N. meningitidis requires mineral salts, lactate, some amino acids such as cysteine, and glutamic acid as a carbon source (Catlin). In 2004, knock out experiments of the gdhA gene which encodes glutamate dehydrogenase in N. meningitidis, confirmed the importance of glutamic acid metabolism towards growth and virulence. In addition to organic nutrient requirements, iron is also needed as an electron acceptor as demonstrated by the increase in generation times during iron restriction (Archibald and DeVoe). In a human host, this iron is supplied from heme iron in the blood where active transport is mediated a TonB dependent receptor. 

Clumping. As mentioned in the previous section, iron reduction is a necessary part of N. meningitidis metabolism. Humans are its primary reservoir from which heme iron, along with other nutrients in the blood, satisfies its requirement for growth. The result of this is an aggregation of blood cells – clumping, a sign of infection. Although not always, it has been shown by Lappann et al that N. meningitidis is capable of forming biofilm communities in a slow flow environment. 

Updated 01:47 PM May 04, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO – A young research associate killed by a highly virulent strain of meningococcal disease is believed to have contracted the bacteria from the San Francisco lab where he was working on a vaccine against it, public health officials said yesterday.
United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention experts are seeking to confirm what they already suspect: that Richard Din, 25, died Saturday in an unusual case of a scientist being fatally infected with an agent from his own laboratory.
Mr Tom Skinner, a CDC spokesman, said the CDC in Atlanta would test a biopsy sample from Din and a sample of the laboratory pathogen he was working with to create fingerprints for each.
“If the fingerprints match, you know it’s highly likely he acquired the infection from working in the lab,” he said.
“Someone getting sick and dying from the organism they’re working with in the lab is exceedingly rare,” he added.
Meanwhile, dozens of people, including relatives, close friends, medical personnel who treated Din and some of his co-workers at the research department of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center were being given antibiotics as a precaution.
Dr Harry Lampiris, chief of infectious disease at the San Francisco VA, said it is likely Din died as a result of his work with Neisseria meningitidis, a strain of bacteria that causes meningococcal disease, which leads to meningitis and bloodstream infections.
“It’s our responsibility to assume it’s laboratory-associated until proven otherwise,” he told Reuters.
Since the 1960s, vaccines have been available for some strains of meningococcal disease. But scientists in the San Francisco lab have spent more than 20 years trying unsuccessfully to develop a vaccine against serogroup B, the strain that killed Din.
“It’s been like the Holy Grail to develop the vaccine against B,” Dr Lampiris said.
Din died of multiple organ failure caused by meningococcal infection and septic shock, said Ms Eileen Shields, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. He died less than a day after becoming ill.
The disease can come on quickly with symptoms including high fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting, rash, confusion and fatigue.
Dr Lampiris said co-workers described Din, who began work at the lab in October, as “a very talented, hard-working and fastidious individual”.
“He was a very bright person who was probably at the beginning of a long research career,” he said.
Meningitis, an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, commonly strikes infants and college students living in dormitories, Dr Lampiris said. He said Din had not had contact with either group.
About 1,000 Americans each year suffer from meningococcal disease, and an estimated 10 to 15 per cent die from it, Mr Skinner said. He could not say how many of the cases resulted from serogroup B.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating the circumstances of Din’s death, along with its federal counterpart and the CDC, the city Public Health Department and the San Francisco VA. REUTERS.

If you are able to stop the process of clumping, you would have reduced the effectiveness of the disease in causing damage and the spread of the disease, indirectly giving you time to find a 100% cure for the disease.
– Contributed by Oogle.

Developing the SRGAP2, a new generation of human intelligence

Updated 06:07 PM May 04, 2012

WASHINGTON – Scientists have identified the gene which may have driven the crucial step in evolution where man learned to talk.
By duplicating itself two and a half million years ago the gene could have given early human brains the power of speech and invention, leaving cousins such as chimpanzees behind.
The gene, known as SRGAP2, helps control the development of the neocortex – the part of the brain responsible for higher functions like language and conscious thought.
The duplicated gene helped our brain cells move faster and make more connections enabling the brain to grow bigger and more complex, according to researchers.
In a study published in the Cell journal, the scientists reported that the gene duplicated about 3.5 million years ago to create a “daughter” gene, and again a million years later creating a “granddaughter” copy.
Although humans and chimpanzees separated six million years ago, we still share 96 per cent of our genome and the gene is one of only about 30 which have copied themselves since that time, reported The Daily Telegraph.
The first duplication was relatively inactive but the second occurred at about the time when primitive Homo Sapiens separated from its brother Australopithecus species and began developing more sophisticated tools and behaviours.
The scientists suggest the duplication process explains how our species developed speech, complex behaviour and mastery of tools around that time.
The copy and the original gene make similar proteins, which are known to help the brain develop.
However, as the scientists found over two studies, the second version made neurons develop longer dendrites, the ‘fingers’ that pick up electrical impulses from other cells, said The Daily Mail.
Genetic scientist Evan Eichler at the University of Washington, who led the research, said the benefit of the duplication would have been instant, meaning human ancestors could have distanced themselves from rival species within a generation reported The Daily Telegraph.
Prof Eichler said: “This innovation could not have happened without that incomplete duplication. Our data suggest a mechanism where incomplete duplication of this gene created a novel function ‘at birth’.”AGENCIES

Open Doors to Collaboration in Research works

Updated 09:17 PM May 02, 2012

LONDON – The UK government has drafted in the Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to help make all taxpayer-funded academic research in Britain available online to anyone who wants to read or use it.
The initiative, which has the backing of Downing Street and should be up and running in two years, will be announced by the universities and science minister, David Willetts, in a speech to the Publishers Association later today.
The move will embolden what has been dubbed the “academic spring” – a growing campaign among academics and research funders for open access in academic publishing. They want to unlock the results of research from behind the lucrative paywalls of journals controlled by publishing companies.
Almost 11,000 researchers have signed up to a boycott of journals owned by the huge academic publisher Elsevier. Subscriptions to the thousands of research journals can cost a big university library millions of pounds each year – costs that have started to bite as budgets are squeezed. Harvard University, frustrated by the rising costs of journal subscriptions, recently encouraged its faculty members to make their research freely available through open access journals and to resign from publications that keep articles behind paywalls.
“Giving people the right to roam freely over publicly funded research will usher in a new era of academic discovery and collaboration, and will put the UK at the very forefront of open research,” Mr Willetts writes in the Guardian.
Mr Willetts said he recognised the value that academic publishers brought to the research process. “But, as the world changes, both cultural and technological change, their business model is going to change. I want to work with the Publishers Association as we move to the new model.”
Mr Wales is a vocal supporter of free and open access to information on the web and he was brought in by No 10 earlier this year as an unpaid adviser to government on crowdsourcing and opening up policymaking. On open access, he will assist the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the UK Research Councils to develop new ways to store and distribute research data and articles.
He will initially advise the research councils on its £2m (S$4m) Gateway to Research project, a website that will act as a portal, linking to publicly funded UK research all over the web. “Jimmy Mr Wales can make sure that we maximise the collaborative potential, the added value from that portal,” Mr Willetts added. “Wikipedia has become a crucial part of our cultural landscape and having the advice from the person who created Wikipedia as we embark on this big project will be incredibly helpful.”
Mr Wales will also feed ideas into the work of Dame Janet Finch, a former vice-chancellor of Keele University, who was asked by Willetts to convene academics, librarians and publishers to work out how an open-access scheme for publicly funded research might work in the UK. Her recommendations to government are expected in June this year.
A government source said that, in the longer term, Mr Wales would help to set up the next generation of open-access platforms for British researchers. “He’s also going to be advising us on the format in which academic papers should be published and data standards. One of the big opportunities is, right now, a journal article might be published but the underlying data isn’t and we want to move into a world where the data is published alongside an article in an open format, available free of charge.”
This initiative is most likely to result in a central repository that will host all research articles that result from public funding. The aim is that, even if an academic publishes their work in a traditional subscription journal, a version of their article would simultaneously appear on the freely available repository. The repository would also have built-in tools to share, comment and discuss articles.
One of the biggest challenges in achieving full open access for research will be the resistance of journal publishers to changing their lucrative business models. The majority of the world’s scientific research, estimated at about 1.5m new articles a year, is published in journals owned by a small number of large publishing companies including Elsevier, Springer and Wiley.
Scientists submit manuscripts to the journals, which are sent out for peer review before publication. The work is then available to other researchers by subscription, usually through their libraries. Publishers of the academic journals, which can cost universities up to £16,500 a year each to access, argue the price is necessary to sustain a high-quality peer review process.
David Prosser, executive director of Research Libraries UK, which represents academic libraries, welcomed the plans in principle and said the details of their implementation would be crucial.
A parallel system that runs alongside the journals might be difficult to operate, he said. “What would an author put into this parallel system, are they putting in a different type of research output other than the paper?”
Making research data standardised and more available would be valuable, he added. “The worry is that there’s all this data out there and it’s in lots of different formats and it’s not interoperable and it’s not being archived properly and it’s going to disappear and there’s a danger of a data black hole. The fact that the government is talking about doing something for that is absolutely fabulous.” GUARDIAN

Towards a Prosperous and Great Democracy Nation

According to a high-level source in Beijing, key leaders in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Politburo have reached four points of consensus that will be announced on or around the 18th Party Congress. The tenor of the decision is that China will take the path of democracy. The news has been circulated hurriedly in Beijing.
According to the source, the four points of consensus are:
1. People from all walks of life, political parties, and social organizations should send representatives to form a preparatory committee for a new constitution. They will draft a new constitution that protects the rights of citizens to freely form associations and political parties.
2. It will be announced that the Chinese Communist Party has finished its historical mission as the ruling party. Party membership will need to be re-registered, with the free choice to re-enter the Party or leave it.
3. “June 4,” Falun Gong, and all groups who have been wrongly persecuted in the process of devoting themselves to China’s realization of democracy will be redressed and receive compensation.
4. The military will be nationalized.

The claim from the source cannot be verified, but it is said to be a matter of discussion among high-level leaders. The source also said that a democratic party has already been formed in the Beijing Academy of Sciences, and that over 30 scholars in the Academy have gotten involved in the movement, forming a “Chinese Scientists’ Liberal Democratic Party.”
The four points of consensus are supposed to be announced on or around the 18th Party Congress, according to the source. The congress is supposed to be held this fall, in October or November, though there have been rumors that it will be postponed amidst the current political uncertainty associated with Bo Xilai’s downfall.
Shi Cangshan, an independent China analyst in Washington responded to the news: “The domino effect set off by the Wang Lijun incident is still going on, and the Party’s behind-the-scenes operations are being exposed.”
Shi said that the reason Party leaders would want to announce four consensuses such as the above is to take the initiative on its inevitable decline. “The group that has engaged in these massive persecutions of the Chinese people, including the persecution of Falun Gong, is being exposed, and this is deeply implicated with the demise of the CCP. Better that they take the initiative, which will benefit themselves and the world.”
Read original Chinese article.

And God will fulfill all his promises to solve Poverty and Hunger and pass his Knowlege and Technologies freely to everyone for the eternal benefit of mankind, towards a perfect economy, that He has decreed, for peace, prosperity and freedom forever. To solve Death and Diseases. Never doubt the power of God.
– Contributed by Oogle. 

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and Lymph Nodes

A lymph node is a small ball or an oval-shaped organ of the immune system, distributed widely throughout the body including the armpit and stomach/gut and linked by lymphatic vessels. Lymph nodes are garrisons of B, T and other immune cells. Lymph nodes act as filters or traps for foreign particles and are important in the proper functioning of the immune system. They are packed tightly with the white blood cells called lymphocytes and macrophages.
Lymph nodes also have clinical significance. They become inflamed or enlarged in various conditions, which may range from trivial, such as a throat infection, to life-threatening such as cancers. In the latter, the condition of lymph nodes is so significant that it is used for cancer staging, which decides the treatment to be employed, and for determining the prognosis.
Lymph nodes can also be diagnosed by biopsy whenever they are inflamed. Certain diseases affect lymph nodes with characteristic consistency and location.
The lymph fluid inside of the lymph nodes contains lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, which are continuously recirculated through the lymph nodes and the bloodstream. Molecules found on bacteria cell walls or chemical substances secreted from bacteria, called antigens, may be taken up by dedicated antigen presenting cells such as dendritic cells into the lymph system and then into lymph nodes. In response to the antigens, the lymphocytes in the lymph node make an antibody which will go out of the lymph node into circulation, seek, and target the pathogen producing the antigen by targeting it for destruction by other cells and complement. Other immune system cells will be made to fight the infection and “sent” to the lymph nodes. The increased numbers of immune system cells fighting the infection will make the node expand and become “swollen.”

The anterior horn of the spinal cord (also called the anterior cornu, anterior column or ventral horn) is the ventral (front) grey matter section of the spinal cord. The anterior horn contains motor neurons that affect the axial muscles while the posterior horn receives information regarding touch and sensation. The anterior horn is where the cell bodies of alpha motor neurons are located.

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an incurable autosomal recessive disease caused by a genetic defect in the SMN1 gene which codes SMN, a protein necessary for survival of motor neurons, and resulting in death of neuronal cells in the anterior horn of spinal cord and subsequent system-wide muscle wasting (atrophy).
Spinal muscular atrophy manifests in various degrees of severity which all have in common general muscle wasting and mobility impairment. Other body systems may be affected as well, particularly in early-onset forms. Spinal muscular atrophy is the most common genetic cause of infant death.

Monday, Apr 30, 2012
YourHealth, AsiaOne

What do you do when your 6-month-year-old daughter is diagnosed within incurable genetic disease, and will very likely not live long beyond her second birthday?
For Mike and Laura Canahuati, they chose to write a blog in her name – detailing their daily joys and trials with her, accompanied with a ‘bucket list’ of things to accomplish before her death.
Baby Avery was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1 on a Good Friday, June 4, 2012.

This means that little Avery, who has already lost her ability to move her legs, will eventually lose the ability to move her arms and her head.
When this happens, it will become increasingly difficult, and in the end impossible, for her body to pump air through her lungs.
This is why most babies diagnosed with SMA Type 1 have a life expectancy of less than two years of age.
There is even the possibility of dying a few months or even weeks after birth. Even with the help of a respirator, life expectancy can only be stretched till ten years of age.
One in 6,000 babies is born with one of the four types of SMA, with Type Zero the worst. However, that usually occurs with fetuses, the couple said.
Much of the blog, written in the first person in Avery’s voice, is the work of the father, Mike.
He writes: “My mommy, daddy, and grandparents have chosen to help me fight this disease, while embracing this news and helping me chronicle my “bucket list” experiences through this blog.
“So at this point, my family & friends can either sit back and watch me die and let my life be about doctors visits and tear filled days, or everyone can embrace what my future holds and we can make each day I’m here a memorable one…starting now.”
Light-hearted and humorous, the blog and the bucket list is written as though Avery will live far beyond her estimated life e
xpectancy and experience life’s milestones.

In her wish-list, ‘Avery’ writes her hopes of ‘attending a sleep over’, ‘going hiking’, to ‘play dress up in my mommy’s closet and have a photo shoot’ and ‘celebrate my real 1st birthday’.
Others include:

  • Lose my first tooth and get a present from the tooth fairy
  • Meet Santa Claus
  • Dress up for Halloween and go trick or treating
  • Get a tattoo
  • Have a father daughter dance while watching Father of The Bride

You need to study the molecular structure level to understand how to engineer new cells that can replace those that has been affected by the disease. – Contributed by Oogle.

    China Government takes care of the poor

    April 28th, 2012
    Travelling on my own in China for two months was a revelation as I instinctively made comparisons with Singapore. To be sure, China is repressive as Singapore, if not more so. However, some  observations may be of interest to Singaporeans.
    As a driver, naturally a few things about parking struck me. Roadside parking was generally free and parking lots even on main roads in mega cities like Shanghai, Chengdu, Xian were generally absent unlike in Singapore where paid parking lots  are seen even in residential areas. Parking wardens were rarely seen. Despite free parking, drivers I noticed did not cause obstruction to others.
    The Chinese government could easily make billions from car park operations if LTA were their model.
    I asked the locals if they had to pay any annual road tax for their motorbikes or electric bikes, of which there are miliions. They shook their heads and said, “Nothing.”
    Chinese public parks are good places to observe how the locals spend their leisure hours. What struck me was how the elderly enjoyed themselves dancing, singing or playing musical instruments. No permits were needed for these activities unlike in Singapore.  I couldn’t help bemoaning how our elderly are slaving away as cleaners.
    At shopping malls, restaurants, fast food eateries, public buildings and so on the cleaners were mostly the young or middle-aged. China employs an army of cleaners to sweep away the litter, and elderly ones are a rarity.
    And for those who drink, they might be amazed by the fact that a big bottle of Tsingtao at a supermarket costs about 70 cents! And cigarettes are dirt cheap.
    I’m perturbed by the fact that in Singapore our seniors, some in their 70s, still need to slave away at menial jobs. Another thing that irks many people is that the government here finds every excuse to squeeze every cent  from the public in the form of all sorts of fees and taxes. One of the most ridiculous is the exit toll for motorists leaving Singapore at Tuas or Woodlands.
    Relating my experience to an Indian friend about the free parking everywhere in China triggered an angry response: “F*** bloody government. You know, now they’ve introduced paid parking even at night in Little India”.
    Travel, as they say, broadens the mind but it also invites the inevitable comparison with your own country. And it may make you wonder whether your government has conned you all along.

    amused bystander: 
    April 28, 2012 at 11:22 pm  (Quote)

    Its always hurting to see old people, some of them not able to even walk properly, working in the public toilets. And these people are Singaporeans. Not only Singaporeans, but people who have worked and contributed to the country’s economy for many years, in their own small ways.
    Now they are discarded by the govt as their productivity go down with age, and the primary responsibility, the govt says, lies on their children to support them financially. But the govt does not realise that the children THEMSELVES, are having a difficult time paying for their own upkeep, let alone their parents. And the govt does not realise that some of these old people have no children, or children that are alienated from them, for whatever reasons.
    Some of these old people still have some human dignity in them, and they refuse public handouts. They rather live rough and work until their bones give in totally. Currently, none of the old-folks homes are govt operated, all are organised by private charities, albeit with govt subsidies. As a recent article by a learned professor pointed out, no provisions are made by the govt for intermediate and long term care for the aged in Singapore; only hospital bills. This is going to be a critical problem for ALL OF US, SINGAPOREANS! Its not just a problem for the old people now. It will be our problem when we grow old as well, and we will certainly grow old!
    When I see these old people slogging away like this, I somehow think, will I be like them later?



    April 29, 2012 at 3:12 am  (Quote)

    That is why I rather migrate to China under communism rule where they take care of the poor, rather than Singapore with all talk and no action, it is a wayang to con those who never know what is happening in the other side of the world, they persecute me by denying me all access to money, wait til I get to China I will get my revenge on Singapore, and bankrupt the entire PAP. If I still don’t get where I want to go, very soon the DBS deal will go down the drain, you will never get your approval from Indonesia parliament.

    Fully automated navigation with robotics loading/unloading Port design

    Anyone who is interested in coming up with a proposal for a new generation of container ports can now do so in a competition that has a top prize of US$1 million (S$1.4 million).
    The aim of the Next Generation Container Port (NGCP) Challenge is to achieve three targets – port performance, productivity and sustainability – for a new generation of container port that is set 10 years in the future.
    Jointly organised by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI), the NGCP Challenge was officially launched today by Captain M Segar, MPA’s Assistant Chief Executive (Operations), at Mandarin Oriental Singapore.
    Participants will be required to consider several operating specifications such as a handling capacity of at least 20 million twenty-foot equivalent units, 24/7 operations and a 90 per cent berth on arrival for ships.
    Their design should also be operational within the given land profile and also be environmentally sustainable.
    These specifications are challenges currently faced by many established container ports around the world.
    The winning proposal will be announced at the next Singapore Maritime Week (SMW), which will take place from April 7 to 12, 2013.
    In addition to the top prize, MPA and SMI will also set aside $5 million in R&D grant to develop promising proposals and concepts.
    Before the winner and commendation awards are announced, shortlisted proposals will also be displayed in a public exhibition that will be held in conjunction with SMW 2013.
    “As a leading container hub port, it is important for Singapore to continually innovate and leverage on cutting-edge technologies to operate the container ports of the future.
    “The NGCP Challenge serves to support SMI’s R&D strategy on R&D for breakthrough applications as well as to develop our thought leadership in port design,” said Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, Executive Director of SMI.
    Registration for the international competition is open till July 31, 2012.
    Participants will have to submit their proposals by Dec 31, 2012.
    Submissions will be evaluated by an international panel, comprising representatives from the Singapore government and the maritime industry.
    For more details on the challenge statement, visit
    Solved it in 5 minutes, you want more details, show me a video of the exact port operation and I will customised the solution.
    My design contains a radar system that will be triggered when the ship approaches port which will also trigger a range of cctv cameras that will guide the ship to dock. Upon docking, cctv cameras will activate robotics which will automatically unload the containers and transport them to a storage facility that is like an open warehouse which is automated and can store up to 30 stories high of containers compared to the present. Everything is controlled by computers, you need to key in the details and robots will fetch the containers for you, even load it up to ships as it is intelligent and every process is automated, requiring less than 10 staff for every shift, running 24/7, 365 days a year. Sorry but I will not be participating in the contest, it is well below my standards and I am not a design architect.
    – Contributed by Oogle.