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News Article | April 19, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention notes that over one-third of U.S. adults suffer from obesity. Americans spend roughly $1,429 more on medical bills and care of obese people, when compared to people with normal weight. One of the main reasons behind this serious condition is the consumption of soft drinks. In 2014, in a bid to cut down the sales and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages or SSBs, tax on these drinks was introduced in Berkeley, California. This move was the first of its kind in the United States. At the time, people were apprehensive as to how a tax would cut down soda sales, but apparently the method has been successful in reducing soda sales. Since the tax was levied, the sales of soft drinks in Berkeley has declined by more than 9 percent. Moreover, a new study reveals that there has been a substantial increase in sales of bottled water. Health officials in Berkeley were optimistic that increased prices of unhealthy drinks would deter people from purchasing them and, therefore, proposed levying a substantial tax on SSBs. The soda tax proposal received approval in November 2014 and came into effect in the region from Jan. 1 2015. The tax added one cent per fluid ounce to the soft drink can or bottle. Therefore, according to the tax rules a person has to pay 12 cents extra for a 12-ounce soda can, which was earlier priced at $1. Similarly, one has to pay an additional 68 cents for a 2-liter soft drink bottle, which was priced just a little over $2 before the tax was levied. Added costs to SSBs makes them more expensive and may convince a thirsty individual, who is short on cash, to opt for water instead. Moreover, other than diverting people to a healthy lifestyle, the tax also provides the city with added revenue. Researchers from the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina and the Public Health Institute teamed up to observe the link between the SSB tax and soda sales, price, consumer spending, and many more factors. "This study examines the association of the first penny per ounce SSB excise tax in the United States, in Berkeley, California, with beverage prices, sales, store revenue/consumer spending, and usual beverage intake," shared the researchers. This is not the first time a study has been conducted in Berkeley to see whether the SSB tax has had any desired effect on the population and its soda drinking habits. A similar study was conducted in fall 2016 and showed that SSB consumption in Berkeley decreased by 21 percent. The study also revealed that after the SSB tax was imposed, water consumption in Berkeley increased by 63 percent. The 2016 fall study on Berkeley SSB tax was published in American Journal of Public Health. The researchers studied the SSB sales in Berkeley from March 1, 2015 to Feb. 29, 2016. During this period, the researchers observed the prices of soft drinks at 26 stores in Berkeley. The team also looked into the point-of-sale scanner data of more than 15 million SSB items at two supermarket chains, three stores in Berkeley, and six more stores in the nearby cities. The researchers also conducted a telephonic survey with 957 residents in Berkeley. After a thorough examination, the researchers found that sales of SSBs in Berkeley declined by 9.6 percent during the study period. On the other hand, the sales of bottled water increased by 15.6 percent during the same time period. Taking into account the fact that Berkeley already had a low consumption rate of SSBs, the additional decline surprised the researchers. "I didn't think we'd get much effect at all," said Barry Popkins, one of the researchers of the study. The findings of the study have been published in journal PLOS Medicine, on Tuesday, April 18. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.gizmag.com

From bacteria to butterflies, creatures have long relied upon the Earth's magnetic field to orient themselves and navigate the planet. Eels are another animal that possess this fascinating ability known as magnetoreception, but researchers have recently discovered that the sea slitherers use the talent in a unique way that lets them travel far with minimal energy. What they found was that young European eels use magnetism to help guide them to the Atlantic Ocean's Gulf Stream. This lets them effectively use it as a conveyor belt that takes them from their birthing grounds in the Sargasso Sea to their coastal and freshwater habitats stretching from North Africa to Scandinavia. After living in those areas for a few years, the eels hop back on the Gulf Stream and hitch a ride back to the Sargasso Sea – a warm patch of ocean in the Atlantic rich in a type of free-floating seaweed called Sargassum – where they breed and die. To come to their conclusion, Lewis Naisbett-Jones at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill along with Nathan Putman of the University of Miami and other colleagues, built a device that looks a bit like a wheel. Young eels, known as "glass eels" because of their transparent skin, are placed in the center chamber. Then, various magnetic fields are applied to the apparatus and the eels are free to move from the center chamber to any of 12 compartments around the wheel. The researchers found that when a magnetic field was applied that mimicked one from the North Atlantic, the eels turned to face northeast, which is the direction they would need to travel from the Sargasso Sea to the Gulf Stream in order to be carried to their new homes. When the magnetic field mimicked that of the Sargasso Sea, however, the eels faced southwest, the direction that would carry them to the current and back to their breeding grounds. Computer models were then used to confirm that even if the eels swam weakly in the directions they oriented under the magnetic stimulation, the majority would indeed hit the Gulf Stream and get where they needed to go. "We were not surprised to find that eels have a magnetic map, but we were surprised to discover how well they can detect subtle differences in magnetic fields," says Lewis Naisbett-Jones at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "We were even more surprised when our ocean simulation models revealed that the little eels use their map not so much to locate Europe, but to target a big conveyor belt – the Gulf Stream – that will take them there. Presumably, a little bit of work (i.e., swimming) helps increase their chances of catching a mostly free ride to their destination." The video below shows the experimental device created by Naisbett-Jones and his collaborators. Their work has been published in the journal Current Biology.


News Article | April 27, 2017
Site: www.biosciencetechnology.com

Brain inflammation is a key component of multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and most other major neurodegenerative diseases. How inflammation starts, how it’s sustained, and how it contributes to these diseases is not well understood, but scientists from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have just found some important clues. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, UNC researchers led by Jenny Ting, Ph.D., the William R. Kenan Distinguished Professor of Genetics, identified key molecules that drive brain inflammation in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis – molecules that are present at abnormally high levels in the brains of humans with the disease. The findings show that these inflammatory molecules are ripe targets for further study and potential targets for future multiple sclerosis treatments. The research may also lead to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, stroke and other diseases that involve neuroinflammation. “We need to better understand brain inflammation at the molecular level in order to treat neurodegenerative conditions,” said Ting, who is also a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Our study shows how two proteins that control inflammation are crucial to a particular kind of brain inflammation.” The study began as an investigation of LPC (lysophosphatidylcholine), a fat-related signaling molecule that researchers have suspected stokes harmful brain inflammation in multiple sclerosis and other central nervous system diseases. In initial experiments, study co-lead authors – UNC postdoctoral researcher Haitao Guo, PhD, graduate student Leslie Freeman, and former graduate student Sushmita Jha, PhD (now an assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur) – found evidence that LPC triggers the inflammatory activation of mouse immune cells through two proteins called NLRP3 and NLRC4. NLRP3 and NLRC4 are components of the so-called innate immune system – a network of infection-fighting molecules and cells evolutionarily older than the better-known adaptive immune system’s T-cells, B-cells, and antibodies. Like other NLR-family proteins, NLRP3 and NLRC4 appear to have evolved to detect molecular patterns associated with certain microbes. The two proteins trigger inflammation in response to these microbes. There is evidence, too, that NLR-family proteins can trigger inflammation in response to non-microbial signals related to tissue damage. LPC is suspected to be one such kind of signal, and it is this sort of non-microbial tissue inflammation that researchers think is involved in neurodegenerative diseases. In previous studies, NLRP3 was shown to be a factor in brain inflammation in multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. But no one had reported a brain inflammation role for NLRC4 in neurodegenerative diseases involving animal models. To investigate that possibility, Freeman, Guo, and Jha examined mouse astrocytes and microglia – resident brain cells that can perform immune functions in the nervous system. These cells are usually the main sources of inflammation in neurodegenerative diseases. Ting’s team found that LPC could induce an inflammatory response in these brain cells, as well, in a way dependent on NLRP3 and NLRC4. The researchers then worked with a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. They used a chemical called cuprizone to induce brain inflammation. This chemical also helped them strip the fatty layer surrounding nerve fibers. They found that the usual inflammatory activation of astrocytes and microglia, along with the stripping of nerve fibers, was greatly reduced when the mice lacked the genes for both NLRP3 and NLRC4. “Essentially, we saw a profound reduction of the inflammatory disease in these mice,” Guo said. “And where just one of those genes was absent, we didn’t see as pronounced a reduction of inflammation.” Underscoring the likely clinical relevance of these findings, the group found high levels of NLRC4 in astrocytes and microglia from the brain-inflamed mice, as well as in biopsied brain tissue from multiple sclerosis patients. Affected mouse and human brain tissue also showed abnormally high levels of an LPC cell receptor protein called G2A. “This is direct evidence of the importance of NLRC4 and NLRP3 in astrocytic and microglial inflammation, and we showed that this damage-associated molecule called LPC triggers the inflammation,” said Guo.


Matera A.G.,University of North Carolina | Wang Z.,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology | Year: 2014

One of the most amazing findings in molecular biology was the discovery that eukaryotic genes are discontinuous, with coding DNA being interrupted by stretches of non-coding sequence. The subsequent realization that the intervening regions are removed from pre-mRNA transcripts via the activity of a common set of small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs), which assemble together with associated proteins into a complex known as the spliceosome, was equally surprising. How do cells coordinate the assembly of this molecular machine? And how does the spliceosome accurately recognize exons and introns to carry out the splicing reaction? Insights into these questions have been gained by studying the life cycle of spliceosomal snRNAs from their transcription, nuclear export and re-import to their dynamic assembly into the spliceosome. This assembly process can also affect the regulation of alternative splicing and has implications for human disease. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited.


Grant
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services | Branch: | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 428.16K | Year: 2011

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common life shortening inherited disorder amongst Caucasians, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa pulmonary infections are the leading cause of mortality in CF patients. Treatment of patients infected with P. aeruginosa is complicated by the cell-to-cell signaling systems of this organism, which regulate biofilm formation, virulence genes, and antibiotic resistance genes such as efflux pumps. These mechanisms augment bacterial resistance to both antibiotics and host defense, causing a vicious cycle in which the body's immune system continuously mounts an unproductive assault on bacterial infection, resulting in chronic inflammation, tissue damage, and eventually respiratory failure. The co-foundersof Agile Sciences, Inc. have discovered simple derivatives of sponge-derived marine natural products with unprecedented activity toward inhibiting and dispersing bacterial biofilms. These Agilyte compounds work synergistically with antibiotics to reducebacterial growth and lower the MICs of antibiotics toward antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In preliminary work, Agilyte molecules have shown efficacy toward: 1) inhibiting and dispersing biofilms of P. aeruginosa at low-micromolar concentrations and 2) working synergistically with tobramycin to stop growth of P. aeruginosa in broth culture. The goal of this proposal is to assess the efficacy of Agile Sciences' lead Agilyte compounds in an in vivo mouse model of chronic P. aeruginosa infection developed by Dr. Richard Boucher at UNC Chapel Hill. To this end, the Specific Aims of this Phase I STTR Project are: 1. To perform advanced in vitro studies of 5 Agilyte compounds to inform lead compound selection for in vivo studies. 2. To evaluate efficacy of two leadcompounds selected in Specific Aim #1 in the Boucher mouse model of chronic P. aeruginosa pulmonary infection. Dr. Laura Guogas, a microbiologist with expertise in cystic fibrosis pulmonary disease, will lead the in-house efforts t Agile Sciences as wellas coordinate a team of expert collaborators. Testing of Agilyte molecules in vivo will be conducted in the laboratory of the co-PI, Dr. Richard Boucher, the Kenan Professor of Medicine and Cystic Fibrosis and Pulmonary Research and Treatment Center Director at UNC. Guidance on preclinical development of the Agilyte molecules will be provided by Dr. Ward Peterson, former Vice President of Research and Preclinical Development at Inspire Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company formerly focused on CF therapeutics. Agile co-founder Dr. Christian Melander will provide expertise on the biological properties of the Agilyte molecules. This multidisciplinary team will work cooperatively to assess the potential of Agile's novel technology to decrease P. aeruginosa proliferation under in vivo conditions relevant to the CF lung. If successfully developed, our proposed therapeutic has the potential to modulate the significant mortality and morbidity associated with CF disease through the eradication of chronic bacterialinfection. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Developing therapeutics to treat cystic fibrosis (CF) is especially challenging due to the formation of communities of bacteria called biofilms in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. Agile Sciences is developing molecules that both inhibit and disperse bacterial biofilms and thus have the potential to significantly enhance the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy for CF. An improved treatment for CF has the potential to both extend the life expectancy and improve the quality of life for the hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide who are living with CF.


Majchrzak A.,University of Southern California | Malhotra A.,University of North Carolina
Journal of Strategic Information Systems | Year: 2013

Recent years have seen an increasing emphasis on open innovation by firms to keep pace with the growing intricacy of products and services and the ever changing needs of the markets. Much has been written about open innovation and its manifestation in the form of crowdsourcing. Unfortunately, most management research has taken the information system (IS) as a given. In this essay we contend that IS is not just an enabler but rather can be a shaper that optimizes open innovation in general and crowdsourcing in particular. This essay is intended to frame crowdsourcing for innovation in a manner that makes more apparent the issues that require research from an IS perspective. In doing so, we delineate the contributions that the IS field can make to the field of crowdsourcing. © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Navy | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2012

Chalcogenide glass fibers are extensively used for delivery of mid-infrared (2 to 5 micron) laser wavelengths. They are needed for development of next-generation directed infrared countermeasure (DIRCM) systems. These new systems will have a reduction of both weight and size allowing their installation in vehicle and aircraft with stringent weight and size requirements. These fibers have industrial uses, such as remote sensing, environmental monitoring, and spectroscopy. Chalcogenide fibers, however, lose about 50% transmission beyond ~ 10 meters and suffer from low mechanical strength passing the 15 kpsi tensile proof test. The main contributors to the loss level and mechanical strength are the various impurities in the glass, and contaminant exposure and imperfections introduced during the fiber draw. Therefore, to obtain good fiber transmission over 10 meters and improved mechanical properties, a novel manufacturing process will be developed. The proposed work will demonstrate the feasibility and plan of developing an innovative manufacturing process for producing improved chalcogenide glass fibers. This new process will bring modification to both glass and fiber production processes. The new manufacturing technology will enable production of optical fibers with losses below 0.15 dB/m and tensile proof strength at 20 kpsi or greater.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Air Force | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.61K | Year: 2012

As recent technology trends usher us into the many-core era, novel techniques are needed for high-performance applications to exploit massive local concurrency. To position software applications to run faster on machines with more cores requires substantial restructuring of software applications, middleware, and the operating system. Contemporary operating systems are not designed to run on hundreds or thousands of cores. New operating system mechanisms must be developed to handle scheduling, resource sharing, and communication in a many-core system. The solution must help the application developer create concurrent software and must be easy to use. Real-Time Innovations (RTI) and the University of North Carolina (UNC) Real-Time Systems Group are teaming together to create mechanisms for scheduling and communication for many-core systems that is scalable, high-performance, and adaptable. Our solution has three key innovations: a component architecture, a smart scheduler, and a high-throughput communication infrastructure. The component architecture will help developers to partition applications into concurrent components. The smart scheduler will assign components to clusters of cores to efficiently use the underlying processing capacity. Finally, the high-throughput communication infrastructure will optimize data transfer between components. Our solution will be implemented in Data Distribution Service (DDS) middleware to simplify application development.


Fisher J.A.,University of North Carolina
Sociology of Health and Illness | Year: 2015

The first stage of testing new pharmaceuticals in humans is referred to as a phase I clinical trial. The purpose of these studies is to test the safety of the drugs and to establish appropriate doses that can later be given to patients. Most of these studies are conducted under controlled, in-patient conditions using healthy volunteers who are paid for their participation. To explore healthy volunteers' experiences in clinical trials, an ethnographic study was conducted at six in-patient phase I clinics in the USA. In addition to the observation of clinic activities (from informed consent procedures to dosing to blood draws), 268 semi-structured interviews were conducted, 33 with clinic staff and 235 with healthy volunteers. Drawing on this dataset, this article explores healthy volunteers' exchange of contemporary legends about phase I clinical trials. In addition to potentially scaring the listener and communicating distrust in the medical community, these incredible stories help participants cope with perceived stigma and establish a gradient of risk of trial participation, creating potential boundaries to their participation in medical research. The article argues that contemporary legends play a productive role in society, shaping how people view themselves and others and influencing their decisions about risky activities. © 2015 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness/John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Army | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 500.00K | Year: 2015

Clinical monitoring of mental health status has not evolved much from the routine meeting between patient and clinician, which suffers from a lack of quantification, irregular and anecdotal reporting, and does not necessarily include input from family. This is unfortunate given current technology, in which people routinely volunteer to track their own health related behavior, such as exercise and sleep, via smartphone. This same technology could be used by clinicians to improve the timeliness, accuracy, and quality of care, in part by leveraging input from family, as well as patients. To address this opportunity, we propose SupportTeam, a mobile application that collects, analyzes, and monitors the input about the status and behavior of patients suffering from PTSD/TBI. SupportTeam is novel because it includes input from family, as well as patients, and uses statistical techniques to help personalize, analyze, and focus treatment. Data and results will be securely transmitted and stored, for processing and subsequent clinical review. In addition to building SupportTeam, we will conduct an experimental trial to measure its impact on providers, patients, and families in the context of cognitive behavioral therapy for veterans with PTSD.

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