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PubMed | University of California at Los Angeles, Federal University of Minas Gerais and UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Bioinformation | Year: 2015

Dengue, a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics since the 1950s, is fast spreading in the Western hemisphere. Over 30% of the worlds population is at risk for the mosquitoes that transmit any one of four related Dengue viruses (DENV). Infection induces lifetime protection to a particular serotype, but successive exposure to a different DENV increases the likelihood of severe form of dengue fever (DF), dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), or dengue shock syndrome (DSS). Prompt supportive treatment lowers the risk of developing the severe spectrum of Dengue-associated physiopathology. Vaccines are not available, and the most effective protective measure is to prevent mosquito bites. Here, we discuss selected aspects of the syndemic nature of Dengue, including its potential for pathologies of the central nervous system (CNS). We examine the fundamental mechanisms of cell-mediated and humoral immunity to viral infection in general, and the specific implications of these processes in the regulatory control of DENV infection, including DENV evasion from immune surveillance. In line with the emerging model of translational science in health care, which integrates translational research (viz., going from the patient to the bench and back to the patient) and translational effectiveness (viz., integrating and utilizing the best available evidence in clinical settings), we examine novel and timely evidence-based revisions of clinical practice guidelines critical in optimizing the management of DENV infection and Dengue pathologies. We examine the role of tele-medicine and stakeholder engagement in the contemporary model of patient centered, effectiveness-focused and evidence-based health care.BBB - blood-brain barrier, CNS - central nervous system, DAMP - damage-associated molecular patterns, DENV - dengue virus, DF - dengue fever, DHF - dengue hemorrhagic fever, DSS - dengue shock syndrome, DALYs - isability adjusted life years, IFN-g - interferon-gamma, ILX - interleukinX, JAK/STAT - janus kinase (JAK) / Signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT), LT - Escherichia coli heat-labile enterotoxin formulations deficient in GM1 binding by mutation (LT[G33D]), MCP-1 - monocyte chemotactic protein 1, M-CSF - macrophage colony-stimulating fact, MHC - major histocompatibility complex, MIF - macrophage migration inhibitory factor, [MIP-1]- / - - macrophage inflammatory protein-1 alpha and beta, mAb - monoclonal antibody, NS1 - non-structural protein 1 of dengue virus, NK - natural killer cells, PAMP - pathogen-associated molecular patterns, PBMC - peripheral blood mononuclear cells, TBF-b - transforming growth factor-beta, TNF- - tumor necrosis-alpha, VHFs - virus hemorrhagic fevers, WHO - World Health Organization.


News Article | April 20, 2016
Site: phys.org

In the southern part of the state, the California newt—Taricha torosa — has been showing up at breeding grounds nearly 20 percent underweight on average. The drastic change has UCLA evolutionary biologist Gary Bucciarelli concerned. "They look really emaciated," said Bucciarelli, a postdoctoral researcher with UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. "You can see the vertebrae and ribs of individuals. They don't look like they are in healthy breeding condition." Bucciarelli, who has studied the species since 2010, believes the problem is related to dry, hot weather from the drought and climate change, although more information is needed to determine an exact cause. "I've studied these newts across California, from San Diego to Mendocino County," he said. "You see a very different picture when you look up north. They're not showing these signs of lack of nourishment or whatever may be happening." California newts spend most of the year on land, staying underground to keep cool and moist—a must for amphibians. From January to May, they emerge to breed in streams. However, if there isn't enough rain, they might not come out at all. The species is highly poisonous, containing the same neurotoxin as pufferfish, yet it is not clear how newts get their toxin. If consumed, it is deadly to humans and other creatures—causing numbness, vomiting, decreased blood pressure and paralysis. However, a garter snake that preys on the newt has apparently evolved tolerance to the toxin. And, while evolution is typically a slow process, some researchers argue that toxicity and resistance are co-evolving, said Bucciarelli, whose research has drawn attention to this possibility. A toxic arms race with a snake would top the list of most species' concerns, but amphibians are highly susceptible to human impacts. Because they spend time on land and in water, changes to either environment affect them. This vulnerability came to global attention in the early 21st century when a climate-linked pathogenic fungus killed large numbers of Central and South American amphibians. "At that time, they really became the canary in the coal mine for climate change," Bucciarelli said. Researchers believe individual California newts can live up to 30 or 40 years, which is a long time for an amphibian. That makes the species useful in determining how changes in climate might affect other wildlife. Bucciarelli laughs when other researchers tell him about the difficulty of the fieldwork they do. "Birds fly. They're hard to find. You've got to trap them." The newt, on the other hand, returns to same breeding locations year after year. They don't even swim away. "They're quite inquisitive. They don't mind coming to the water surface to see what's going on." Bucciarelli catches them by hand to take measurements and tissue samples—one for DNA and another for toxicity. He also assesses their general breeding characteristics. In just five days, he can sample 30 breeding localities from L.A. to Mendocino. Laura Patterson is the statewide amphibian and reptile coordinator for California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which monitors the effects of the drought on wildlife. Not surprisingly, species that rely on marshes, creeks and other freshwater places are the most at risk. The agency helps create recovery plans for endangered and threatened species. It also focuses on protecting species—like the newt — that have not yet reached critical status. "It can be a monumental effort to improve species to a point where they no longer need protection," Patterson said. "It's a lot cheaper to be proactive and protect habitat ahead of time." That's where research from Bucciarelli and other scientists comes in. They partner with local, state and federal agencies to fill gaps in knowledge, enabling conservation authorities to create more effective plans. As Southern California moves further into the drought, Bucciarelli plans to keep working with land management agencies to improve protection for amphibians in the L.A. area.


News Article | December 13, 2016
Site: phys.org

In and outside the Court of Sciences, however, Barboni is known for a subject that has nothing to do with geology or volcanoes: hummingbirds—specifically a wing-flapping, darting, squeaking colony of 200-plus birds that make their home around the campus office of the "hummingbird whisperer," as Barboni is sometimes called. Every weekday, Barboni welcomes clouds of these "fairy" birds to her office window with nectar she mixes from large bags of sugar and water. In a frenzy and flash of iridescent greens, blues, reds and purples, the birds flit around four 80-ounce feeders that hang outside the windows of her ground-level office. If she puts her hand on the rim of a feeder, they will perch there in fond recognition of the human who feeds them. If she doesn't feed them in a timely manner, the miffed hummingbirds will fly into her office to "yell at me. … They are so demanding, but they know I will give them everything," she said with a smile. The strong bond these birds have developed with her over two years is mutually binding. So entranced is this scientist with hummingbirds that "I cannot go to a place where they are not there," said Barboni, who was born and raised in Switzerland where hummingbirds are nonexistent. "This is cheesy, but I have seen them help people. They make my life happy. Having a crappy day? Who cares—there are hummingbirds around," she said. "Having a good day? Hummingbirds make it better. "They are just so cute, and so smart! They remember you. They get to know you, and then they interact with you," said Barboni, who talks to the birds that sometimes fly into her office and recognizes at least 50 by names she has given them. Some of the bolder hummingbirds even allow her to hold them, stroke their feathers and see their nests. Her affection for the birds has captivated her colleagues in the Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences; they have helped create an unofficial "Hummingbird Alley" by putting out other feeders. As a bird enthusiast growing up in Switzerland, she had always admired these colorful creatures from afar—but in books. She believed them to be magical fairies because they were so elusive and so beautiful. "My dearest dream as a child was to see hummingbirds," recalled Barboni in a departmental newsletter. "Imagine my joy when I found out that my next job assignment would bring me to Los Angeles, where hummingbirds live year-round." After completing a postdoctoral fellowship in geology at Princeton, she came to UCLA in June 2014 on a second fellowship and wasted no time on her first day to install a feeder outside her office window—and she waited. Soon a tiny female Allen's hummingbird hovered outside her window and looked her straight in the eye. "I was thrilled beyond belief, and it was love at first sight," she recalled of that moment. She didn't really expect an answer when she asked the bird, "What's your name?" But when the bird squeaked loudly in response, "'Squeak' she became," Barboni said. "I had just met my first friend at UCLA. I couldn't say I tamed her; actually, what happened is she tamed me." Soon after, Squeak was perching on Barboni's finger and feeding out of her hand. These days, the bird flies into her office for an evening visit and falls asleep standing on the researcher's computer monitor. "That is where she spends her nights when it is cold or windy outside," Barboni explained. When Barboni discovered Squeak one day sitting on two tiny eggs in a nest in a tree in front of the window, the hummingbird and her offspring became "a first-rate attraction in the department," said researcher, who documented their births and upbringing with day-to-day photos and videos. Barboni has become so protective of the birds that she has stopped campus tree trimmers from disturbing them during their nesting season. The birds' real foe, however, is climate change, she said. They're at high risk of losing their habitat, a subject on which Barboni has given public talks. She is also working with associate professor Aradhna Tripati and the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to find ways to better protect the birds. "They are, in every aspect, remarkable. They are tiny but fierce. They have so much personality, an amazing metabolism," Barboni said of the birds that drink 8 to 10 times their weight in nectar daily. "They are Mother Nature's best creation. … She was trying to make one tiny perfect jewel, and I think she got it perfectly right."

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