"Since swine flu swept the globe in 2009, scientists have scrambled to determine why a small percentage of children in Europe who received the flu vaccine Pandemrix developed narcolepsy, an incurable brain disorder that causes irresistible sleepiness. This week, a promising explanation was dealt a setback when prominent sleep scientist Emmanuel Mignot of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and colleagues retracted their influential study reporting a potential link between the H1N1 virus used to make the vaccine and narcolepsy.
Some researchers were taken aback. This was one of the most important pieces of work on narcolepsy that has come out, says neuroimmunologist Lawrence Steinman, a close friend and colleague of Mignots, who is also at Stanford. The retraction, announced in Science Translational Medicine (STM), really caught me by surprise, he says. Others say that journal editors should have detected problems with the studys methodology.
The work provided the first substantiation of an autoimmune mechanism for narcolepsy, which could explain the Pandemrix side effect, researchers say. The vaccine, used only in Europe, seems to have triggered the disease in roughly one out of 15,000 children who received it. The affected children carried a gene variant for a particular human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typea molecule that presents foreign proteins to immune cellsconsidered necessary for developing narcolepsy.
In the 18 December 2013 issue of STM, Mignot and colleagues reported that T cells from people with narcolepsy, but not from healthy controls, are primed to attack by hypocretin, a hormone that regulates wakefulness. They also showed molecular similarities between fragments of the H1N1 virus and the hypocretin molecule and suggested that these fragments might fool the immune system into attacking hypocretin-producing cells.
Perhaps of interest...
Has this Danish community found the formula for environmentally friendly industry?
"When we look closely at systems in nature coral reefs or rainforests, for instance we see something we dont often see in human systems: mutually beneficial relationships and energy flows among the various elements, such as air, water, rocks, soil, and plant and animal life. If we emulate these relationships in our cities and in our industrial infrastructure, we can vastly improve the sustainability of natural resources and energy use.
Thats exactly what the municipality of Kalundborg, 64 miles west of Copenhagen, is doing. In fact, for over 50 years, Kalundborg has been home to the first and still the most advanced example of this concept: the Kalundborg Symbiosis. Anchored originally by a power and district heating plant, this innovative industrial complex has grown to include some large and profitable enterprises, including the biggest oil refinery in the Baltic Region; an insulin-producing plant with 2,700 employees; factories making enzymes for use in everything from bioenergy to textiles, and gypsum for lightweight building materials; and the largest sewage treatment plant in northern Europe. Heat, water and a host of other resources that would otherwise be treated as waste supply some of the energy and many of the feedstocks to these operations and to the surrounding municipality, including farms.
To some visitors, it can be a little confusing here because its old and new, private houses and industrial area, says Lisbeth Randers, a project officer with the Symbiosis Center, the complexs outreach arm. The way it works in Denmark is that residential and industrial have to find a way to live and work next to each other. If the industries were polluting a lot, there would be many complaints and penalties. But environmental protection is so good in Denmark, we dont have that.
The heart of the industrial complex at Kalundborg occupies 4 square kilometers, nearly 1,000 acres. Throughout the site, inputs and outputs weave together like strands of thread, creating a tapestry of efficiency. The DONG Energy power plant, for instance, provides not only electricity to the grid but steam to four industrial plants, as well as heat to the local municipality and to a fish farm. In return it receives water from a refinery and the municipality, and gas from the refinery. It also sends its fly ash for processing by the cement industry and its gypsum to be made into building materials.
Interesting stuff, or so I think.
Some parents are refusing vitamin K injections for their newborns. The consequences can be devastating.
"In May, the Tennessean reported on a truly shocking medical problem. Seven infants, aged between seven and 20 weeks old, had arrived at Vanderbilt University's Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital over the past eight months with a condition called "vitamin K deficiency bleeding," or VKDB. This rare disorder occurs because human infants do not have enough vitamin K, a blood coagulant, in their systems. Infants who develop VKDB can bleed in various parts of their bodies, including bleeding into the brain. This can cause brain damage or even death.
There is a simple protection against VKDB that has been in regular medical use since 1961, when it was recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics: Infants receive an injection of vitamin K into the leg muscle right after birth. Infants do not get enough of this vitamin from their mother's body or her milk, so this injection (which is not a vaccine, but simply a vitamin being delivered via a shot) is essential, explains pediatrician Clay Jones on the latest installment of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream below). It's also quite safe.
So then why are some parents refusing to get it, leaving their infants vulnerable to a potentially devastating condition? It's difficult to understand the phenomenon outside the context of a growing fear, in general, about vaccines in the US. "There's a lot of overlap with that anti-vaccine mentality," says Jones. Indeed, reporting on the Vanderbilt VKDB cases, the Tennessean explained that "Vanderbilt doctors believe incidences are on the rise because of the anti-vaccine movement."
VKDB comes in two versions, an "early" form (occurring in the first week of life) and the much more dangerous "late" form, which tends to strike infants between two and 12 weeks old who have not received Vitamin K, and who are "exclusively breastfed" by their mothers. The problem, writes Jones, is that "levels of vitamin K in breast milk are low, much lower than in infant formula."
It's good to know!
"NOTE: The GLP has been able to confirm that Adams is indeed the mastermind and financier behind the Monsanto Collaborators website. The story has now taken an even more bizarre twist, as Adams, facing multiple investigations from law enforcement officials, including the FBI, is now trying to make it appear that not only did he not oversee the project, but that it was a set up by Monsanto in a twisted plot to discredit anti-GMO critics."
Are there any boundaries any more?
"Oregon is taking steps to ban smoking on all 362 miles of beaches along the Pacific coast.
The move this week by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department follows an earlier ban on smoking at most other state park properties.
It's partly a response to concerns that the earlier smoking ban, enacted in February, will push more smokers onto the coastline, said Chris Havel, an agency spokesman. The ban would also reduce litter on beaches and ensure consistent rules throughout the state parks system, he said.
Cigarette butts are the top trash item collected on Oregon beaches by SOLVE, a nonprofit organization that stages two annual coastal cleanups, said Maureen Fisher, executive director.
Are pesticides killing all the honeybees? Not so fast.
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