NAIJA REBRANDER

Incredible: London patient’ is second person to be ‘cured’ of HIV after stem cell transplant

People gather around candles in the shape of a ribbon during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. Picture: REUTERS
London — An HIV-positive man in the UK has become the second known adult worldwide to be cleared of the AIDS virus after he received a bone marrow transplant from an HIV-resistant donor, his doctors said.
Almost three years after he received bone marrow stem cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection — and more than 18 months after he came off antiretroviral drugs — highly sensitive tests still show no trace of the man's previous HIV infection.
"There is no virus there that we can measure. We can't detect anything," said Ravindra Gupta, a professor and HIV biologist who co-led a team of doctors treating the man.
HIV/AIDS experts said the case is proof of the concept that scientists will one day be able to end HIV/AIDS, and marks a "critical moment" in the search for an HIV cure, but does not mean that cure has already been found.
Gupta described his patient as "functionally cured" and "in remission", but cautioned: "It's too early to say he's cured."
The man is being called "the London patient", in part because his case is similar to the first known case of a functional cure of HIV - in a US man, Timothy Brown, who became known as the Berlin patient when he underwent similar treatment in Germany in 2007, which also cleared his HIV.
Brown, who had been living in Berlin, has since moved to the US and, according to HIV experts, is still HIV-free.
About 37-million people worldwide are currently infected with HIV and the AIDS pandemic has killed about 35-million people worldwide since it began in the 1980s. In recent years, research into the complex virus has led to the development of drug combinations that can keep it at bay in most patients.
Gupta, now at Cambridge University, treated the London patient when he was working at University College London. The man had contracted HIV in 2003, Gupta said, and in 2012 was also diagnosed with a type of blood cancer called Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Last chance
In 2016, when he was very sick with cancer, doctors decided to seek a transplant match for him.
"This was really his last chance of survival," Gupta said.
The donor — who was unrelated — had a genetic mutation known as CCR5 delta 32, which confers resistance to HIV.
The transplant went relatively smoothly, Gupta said, but there were some side effects, including the patient suffering a period of graft-versus-host disease — a condition in which donor immune cells attack the recipient's immune cells.
Most experts say it is inconceivable such treatments could be a way of curing all patients. The procedure is expensive, complex and risky. To do this in others, exact match donors would have to be found in the tiny proportion of people — most of them of northern European descent — who have the CCR5 mutation that makes them resistant to the virus.
"Although this is not a viable large-scale strategy for a cure, it does represent a critical moment," said Anton Pozniak, president of the International AIDS Society. "The hope is that this will eventually lead to a safe, cost-effective and easy strategy … using gene technology or antibody techniques."
Specialists said it was also not yet clear whether the CCR5 resistance was the only key — or whether the graft-versus-host disease may have been just as important. Both the Berlin and London patients had this complication, which may have played a role in the loss of HIV-infected cells, Gupta said.
His team plans to use these findings to explore potential new HIV treatment strategies. "We need to understand if we could knock out this receptor in people with HIV, which may be possible with gene therapy," he said.
The London patient, whose case was set to be reported in the journal Nature and presented at a medical conference in Seattle on Tuesday, has asked his medical team not to reveal his name, age, nationality or other details.
Reuters

Woolly mammoths: Japanese scientists take ‘significant step’ towards bringing prehistoric giants back to life

Woolly mammoths: Japanese scientists take ‘significant step’ towards bringing prehistoric giants back to life
‘Significant steps’ have been made towards bringing the extinct species back to life
The last woolly mammoth populations died out just over 4,000 years ago, but the prehistoric giants could soon be back and plodding about just like they were during the ice age.
mammoth-7.jpg
Members of Japan customs inspect a 39,000-year-old female baby woolly mammoth Yuka from Siberia with permafrost on it. It will be displayed at an exhibition in Tokyo
Scientists in Japan claim to have taken a “significant step” towards bringing the extinct species back to life, after they transplanted cells extracted from the carcass of a mammoth into a mouse, where they subsequently recorded positive biological activity.
mammoth-8.jpg
A 39,000-year-old female baby woolly mammoth named Yuka from Siberia covered in permafrost is surrounded by staff at an exhibition in Yokohama, suburban Tokyo
The cells were taken from the 28,000-year-old mummified remains of a woolly mammoth, named Yuka, found in Siberian permafrost in 2010. The animal, which died when it was about seven-years-old, is one of the best preserved mammoths known to science.
The team extracted tissue samples from the animal’s bone marrow and muscle, which they described as “well preserved”.
They then began searching for cell nuclei remains. In total, 88 nucleus-like structures were collected from the muscle sample.
mammoth-1.jpg
A 39,000-year-old female woolly mammoth, which was found frozen in Siberia, Russia arrives at an exhibition hall in Yokohama, south of Tokyo
The structures were then injected into mouse oocytes – a cell in an ovary which can undergo genetic division to form an egg cell.
The team said following the procedure a “pronucleus-like structure budded from the injected … mammoth nucleus”.
They also found possible signs of repair to damaged mammoth DNA.
“These results indicate that a part of mammoth nuclei possesses the potential for nuclear reconstitution,” the scientists said, in a paper published in the journal Nature.
Despite the successes, the scientists did not observe the further cell division necessary to create a viable egg, “possibly due to the extensive DNA damage in the transferred nuclei”.
This marks a “significant step toward bringing mammoths back from the dead”, researcher Kei Miyamoto, one of the study’s authors told Japan’s Nikkei news outlet.
“We want to move our study forward to the stage of cell division,” he added, but acknowledged “we still have a long way to go”.
Most mammoth populations died out between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago. The last mainland population existed in the Kyttyk peninsula of Siberia until 9,650 years ago.
But the species survived for another 5,000 years on Siberian islands, which became cut off from the mainland by retreating ice following the last ice age.
The last known population remained on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean until 4,000 years ago – well beyond the dawn of human civilisation, but finally becoming extinct around the time of the construction of the pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
There is no scientific consensus on the chief cause for the creatures’ demise, but climate change significantly reduced habitable parts of the globe for mammoths, and they were also hunted by humans.
Source: Independent/Getty Image

Interesting: About 6,000 Angry Birds "Chicken" ganged up Against intruding fox and pecked it to death

Interesting: About 6,000 Angry Birds "Chicken" ganged up Against intruding  fox and pecked it to death
Chickens at an agriculture school in France killed a fox that entered their pen. (File photo)
When a hungry fox snuck into a chicken pen at an agriculture school in northwestern France, it got a lot more than it bargained for.
On their morning rounds Thursday, students at Le Gros Chêne school in Brittany found the fox's lifeless, mutilated body lying in the corner of the pen.
    "There, in the corner, we found this dead fox," Pascal Daniel, the head of farming at the school, told the Agence France-Presse news agency. "There was a herd instinct and they attacked him with their beaks."
    The fox is believed to have become trapped inside the chicken pen by light-controlled sensors that close the doors when the sun goes down, leaving it at the mercy of the angry mob.
    Some of the 6,000 birds ganged up on the fox and pecked it to death. "I found him pecked by the chickens," Daniel told French radio station RTL.
    Students found the fox's carcass in a corner of the chicken pen when they were carrying out their morning rounds.
    The chickens, in a group, wedged him in a corner and attacked him until the fox's stomach was completely pecked."
    Daniel noted that chickens may have turned up en masse and surprised the "young and inexperienced" fox.
    He told the radio station that the chickens have been in their pens since July and have "learnt how to defend themselves" over the space of seven months.
    The luckless fox is not the chickens' first victim; the students regularly find "devoured" pigeons in the pen as well.
    Nevertheless, Daniel said the formidable birds are not to be feared, describing them "very lively," spending most of their time outdoors on the organic farm.
      They may have learned from the fate of their predecessors -- a visit from a fox 18 months ago ended much less happily for the chickens, Daniel said.Culled

      Solar storm: Evidence of huge eruption from Sun found by Scientists

       Solar storm: Evidence of huge eruption from Sun found by Scientists
      X-class flare
      Scientists have found evidence of a huge blast of radiation from the Sun that hit Earth more than 2,000 years ago.
      The result has important implications for the present, because solar storms can disrupt modern technology.
      The team found evidence in Greenland ice cores that the Earth was bombarded with solar proton particles in 660BC.
      The event was about 10 times more powerful than any since modern instrumental records began.
      The Sun periodically releases huge blasts of charged particles and other radiation that can travel towards Earth.
      The particular kind of solar emission recorded in the Greenland ice is known as a solar proton event (SPE). In the modern era, when these high-energy particles collide with Earth, they can knock out electronics in satellites we rely on for communications and services such as GPS.
      The radiation may also pose a health risk for astronauts. And passengers and crew on commercial aircraft that fly at high altitudes and close to the poles, such as on transatlantic routes, could receive increased radiation doses - though this depends on many variables.
      Other types of solar radiation events can trigger aurorae in the high atmosphere and shut down electrical grids.
      GPS III satelliteImage copyrightUSAF
      Image captionLarge solar proton events could potentially threaten satellites, such as those that provide GPS services
      "There are high-energy solar energetic particle events, or solar proton events. These are the high energy particles directly hitting Earth and producing the particles we measure," co-author Raimund Muscheler, from Lund University in Sweden, told BBC News.
      "Connected to this are also the lower energy particles that come usually within 1-4 days to Earth. These produce the geomagnetic storms."
      The two types of particle events may not always coincide, however.
      Modern instrumental monitoring data extends back about 60 years. So finding an event in 660BC that's an order of magnitude greater than anything seen in modern times suggests we haven't appreciated how powerful such events can be.
      There wouldn't have been any appreciable signs of the event to people alive at the time. But if there were any associated geomagnetic storms, it might have triggered aurorae at lower latitudes than is usual.
      660BC was the date, according to legend, when Japan's first emperor - Jimmu - acceded to the throne. It was the time of the Iron Age in Europe and the Middle East - before the rise of the Roman Empire.
      The researchers found evidence for the event in the form of radioactive isotopes (particular forms of an element) present in the Greenland ice. These were beryllium-10 and chlorine-36, which are regarded as being of cosmic origin.
      Researchers have also identified two other large events from the past, which left evidence in both Greenland ice cores and tree rings. The signature researchers look for in tree rings is the isotope carbon-14.
      One of these, which occurred between 774 and 775AD, was comparable in its magnitude to the one in 660BC.
      "Our event is about the same size as [the event in 774/775]. There is some uncertainty, but they look very similar," said Dr Muscheler.
      However, the event in 660BC does not have such a clear carbon-14 signature in tree ring data.
      Scientists are now working to understand how common the extreme events are, something that could help us plan for big solar storms in future.
      Source: BBC

      New York to open tallest outdoor observation deck "EDGE" in Western Hemisphere

      New York to open tallest outdoor observation deck "EDGE" in Western Hemisphere
      Very soon New York will have "the edge" when it comes to magnificent outdoor observation decks.
      Already home to some of the most famous viewing spots in the world, the Big Apple is about to add another to its impressive collection.
      Hudson Yards' Launches Edge, the Highest Outdoor Observation Deck in the Western Hemisphere
      Named Edge, the upcoming Hudson Yards observation deck is set to open next year, with incomparable views of the city skyline.
      Standing at more than 1,100 feet, Edge will be the tallest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere and the fifth highest in the world.
      After hopping on an elevator for 60 seconds, visitors will arrive at the 7,500-square-foot outdoor viewing area, which extends 65 feet from the 100th floor of the new 30 Hudson Yards tower and includes a glass floor, offering visitors a bird's-eye view of the city.
      Edge also holds a signature 10,000-square-foot restaurant as well as a bar and event space.
      Hudson Yards' Launches Edge, the Highest Outdoor Observation Deck in the Western Hemisphere
      While a launch date hasn't been announced as yet, group bookings are opened for the first quarter of 2020.
      "Edge invites visitors to walk out into the sky and embrace unobstructed, panoramic views of New York City like never before," says Jason Horkin, executive director of Hudson Yards Experiences.
      Vessel

      Unique structural design

      "The name reflects both the unique structural design, which pierces the sky when observed from below, and the exhilarating feeling of being on the brink of something exceptional -- exactly where you are on edge."
      Beyer 2
      Once launched, Edge will stand taller than the observation deck at the Empire State Building, which is 1,050 feet above street level, as well as Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center, 850 feet above street level.
      The 30 Hudson Yards tower was designed by William Pedersen of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates as part of Manhattan's newest neighborhood Hudson Yards.
      Built over 28 acres of a working rail yard on Manhattan's west side, Hudson Yards is the largest ever privately built real estate project in the US, with a cost of around $28 billion.
      The complex will also include more than 100 shops and restaurants; The Shed, a cultural and performing arts venue and a public square and gardens.
      Source: CNN/Hudson Yard

      Study blames YouTube for spread of Flat Earth movement

      Conspiracy theories shown on video-sharing site persuade people to doubt Earth is round
      YouTube is being blamed for the sharp rise in the number of people who believe the Earth is flat.
      Researchers from Texas Tech University attended the world’s largest gathering of Flat Earthers in 2017 and 2018. During the conferences, interviews were conducted with 30 attendees that revealed a pattern regarding their beliefs.
      Of the 30 people interviewed, all but one said they had not considered the Earth to be flat two years ago but changed their views after watching videos supporting the idea on YouTube. The other person learned of the idea after his daughter and son-in-law – who had seen Flat Earth videos on YouTube – told him about it.
      Lead researcher Asheley Landrum presented her findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., this past weekend. Landrum said YouTube’s algorithms make it easy to “end up going down the rabbit hole by presenting information to people who are going to be more susceptible to it.”
      YouTube in January said it was taking steps to reduce recommendations of “borderline” content that comes close to – but doesn’t quite violate – its community guidelines, like videos claiming the Earth is flat and those promoting miracle cures for grave illnesses.
      Lead image courtesy Amanda Carden via Shutterstock

      Android Q May Replace the back button with a Gesture Navigation

      Android’s back button might be going away entirely, replaced with a quick swipe to the left from the home button. XDA Developers has been digging into a leaked, early set of code from the next version of Android, codenamed Q, and the latest discovery from those forays is this potential demise of the back button, as well as a quicker app-changing animation when you swipe to the right.
      The way that gestures and buttons work in Android 9 Pie (the current iteration, at least if you’re lucky enough to own a phone that runs it) is a little bit split. Google’s Pixel has just a home “pill” and then a back button appears only when it’s needed. To multitask, you swipe up. Other phones running Android 9 have a more traditional three-button layout, while still others teach you custom gestures to get rid of the navigation bar altogether.
      Recent iPhones have a slightly similar set of gestures, with a back gesture that works by sliding in from the left of the screen. Basically we all have a future where to learn how to use a new phone you’ll just have to slide your thumb around and hope something good happens. Here’s a quick video XDA made showing the gesture system Google is experimenting with in Android Q.
      It is, as anybody could have predicted, a little messy. For something as core to a phone as “going home” or “going back,” the fact that different phones have different methods could be a problem.
      If we’re perfectly honest, there’s also no way to know for sure that this new gesture system XDA has discovered will be implemented as is. As you can see in the video above, it seems like Google hasn’t really thought through how you’d be able to switch back and forth between recent apps using the gesture area. And even if Google does implement it on the Pixel, there’s no guarantee that the rest of the Android ecosystem (aka the vast, vast majority of phones out there) will follow suit.
      Speaking of gesture areas, let’s talk about the lead image on this post. It’s a Palm Pre, a dead phone that never really had a chance. This whole “swipe to the left from the home button” and “swipe across the gesture area to switch apps” and even “the home button is just a small white dot or glowing line at the bottom of your screen” are all things Palm did with the Pre in 2009. I am on the record as being against rose-colored webOS nostalgia, but sometimes the similarities are just too much to bear.
      Just copy it entirely, Google, rather than have all this confusion. It’ll be fine. Heck, that’s what the iPhone X (almost) did.

      Huawei Founder Ren Zhengfei, Says There's No Stopping China's Tech Giant, Despite U.S. Pressure

      Huawei Founder Ren Zhengfei, Says There's No Stopping China's Tech Giant, Despite U.S. Pressure
      The founder of Huawei said there is “no way the U.S. can crush” the tech giant, calling the December arrest of his daughter — the company’s chief financial officer — “politically motivated.”
      In an interview with the BBC, Ren Zhengfei spoke confidently about the company’s fate despite mounting pressure from Washington. The U.S. has accused the company of circumventing sanctions against Iran and stealing trade secrets.
      The U.S. has leveled 23 charges against Huawei and Ren’s daughter and Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested at Washington’s request in Vancouver, where she is currently under house arrest awaiting possible extradition.
      Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned countries not to use Huawei technology and said that doing so would make it harder for Washington to “partner alongside them.”
      The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have already blocked Huawei from their 5G mobile broadband networks. Canada is considering following suit.
      FILE PHOTO: Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's chief financial officer (CFO), is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters December 6, 2018. Huawei/Handout via REUTERS
      Nonetheless, Ren remains bullish.
      “There’s no way the U.S. can crush us,” Ren told the BBC. “The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always scale things down a bit.”
      “If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine. And if the North goes dark, there is still the South. America doesn’t represent the world. America only represents a portion of the world,” he added.

      Russian Private ‘space yachts’ to fly tourists to near-Earth orbit in 5 years

      Russian Private ‘space yachts’ to fly tourists to near-Earth orbit in 5 years
      Russian ‘space yachts’ to fly tourists to near-Earth orbit in 5 years
      Selena Space Yacht © NPO Aviation and Space Technologies
      Private space tourism is taking off in Russia with plans to send tourists to near-Earth orbit in spacecraft capable of launching from ordinary airfields, chief designer of NPO Aviation and Space Technologies Aleksandr Begak said.
      He told Sputnik news agency the first flights may start in five years and will cost about $200,000 to $300,000 per person.
      According to Begak, a number of private companies are currently working on the unmanned spacecraft dubbed Selena Space Yacht. The works are conducted with the support of the National Technology Initiative’s (NTI) AeroNet and SpaceNet working groups.
      “We have an opportunity to land on any airfield, the device lands like an airplane... We now calculate the optimal time for space travel, a comfortable flight path, because experience shows that people do not need to be in zero-gravity condition for as long as 10 minutes,” Begak said, adding that the development of the spacecraft began two years ago.
      He explained that three “space yachts” will be produced, with six passenger seats and one pilot seat each. Though the spacecraft will be unmanned, a pilot will be present for the convenience of passengers, he said.
      The vehicle will enter space at a maximum speed of 2,685 miles per hour to a height of 75 to 87 miles (120-140 kilometers).Earlier, the co-leader of the working group of the National AeroNet Technology Initiative, Sergey Zhukov, said that Russia could see the start of private space tourism in around five years. Participants will be flying for several minutes to a height of 100km before descending by parachute or engine-powered aircraft, he said.

      Israel shoots for the moon with privately funded spacecraft

      Israel shoots for the moon with privately funded spacecraft
      Yariv Bash, right, Yonatan Winetraub, middle, and Kfir Damari, the founders of SpaceIL, inserting a time capsule into the Beresheet spacecraft, December 17, 2018 (Yoav Weiss)
      Yariv Bash, right, Yonatan Winetraub, middle, and Kfir Damari, the founders of SpaceIL, inserting a time capsule into the Beresheet spacecraft, December 17, 2018 (Yoav Weiss)
      Aiming to become the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon, Israel's non-profit SpaceIL has announced it will launch a spacecraft from Florida's Cape Canaveral Thursday on board a Falcon 9 rocket.
      The unmanned craft, weighing 1,300 pounds and standing approximately five feet tall, will then begin an about seven-week journey to the moon, from where it will send back images of the rocky surface and conduct experiments on the lunar magnetic field.
      The spacecraft is called "Beresheet," a reference to the first words of the Bible in Hebrew: "In the beginning..."
        Perhaps it should have been called "Chutzpah."
        For decades, the moon was the exclusive domain of the superpowers. The Soviet Union landed Luna 2 on the Earth's nearest neighbor in 1959. Three years later, the United States landed Ranger 4 on the moon.
        These were "hard landings," meaning the craft crashed into the moon. The first "soft landings" for both countries came in 1966, when spacecraft made controlled descents to the lunar surface.
        It would take nearly another 50 years for a third country to perform a soft moon landing, when China's Chang'e 3 did it in 2013.
        If Israel's spacecraft venture proceeds as planned, it would become the fourth -- and by far the smallest -- country to do so. It would also become the first private enterprise to make a controlled landing on the moon, with the smallest spacecraft to do it, and by far the least expensive mission.

        The founders of SpaceIL and members of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) displaying the time capsule that was inserted into the Beresheet space craft scheduled to land on the moon in 2019; Dec. 17, 2018 (Yoav Weiss)
        The total cost of the program, raised from private donations, is $100 million, a small fraction of the billions of dollars invested in the US space program.
        "This mission that we were talking about was really a mission impossible," said entrepreneur Morris Kahn, who donated $40 million to the project. "The only thing is I didn't realize it was impossible, and the three engineers that started this project didn't think it was impossible, and the way Israel thinks, nothing is impossible... We are really making this dream come true."
        The spacecraft will orbit earth before entering the moon's orbit to land.
        SpaceIL was founded eight years ago to compete in the Google Lunar X Prize, an international competition to see whether a private enterprise could land a spacecraft on the moon, move 500 meters in any direction, and transmit live, high-definition video from the lunar surface.
        The competition was canceled in January 2018 when none of the five teams left in the competition was able to meet the March deadline for a launch.
        But some of the teams persisted, determined to land on the moon even without the incentive of $30 million in prize money.
          SpaceIL pressed on, signing with Elon Musk's SpaceX to launch their craft to the moon on board a Falcon 9 rocket, which is scheduled for launch on February 21.
          Beresheet will travel approximately 4 million miles on its journey, circling the earth multiple times to gain speed before it slingshots towards the moon. It is scheduled to land on April 11.