COVID-19 activity levels begin to rebound

Activity levels during lockdown in Britain’s busiest regions including Greater London, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands have begun to rebound following successive week-by-week declines, according to new UCL analysis of geographical data.

Combining in-app mobile data with demographic indicators, the researchers found that activity levels—defined as the number of unique mobile devices used per hour in each study area—declined during the first five weeks of lockdown, but have ticked up since the 19th April.

Professor James Cheshire, UCL Geography and deputy director of the ESRC Consumer Data Research Centre, said: “Our analysis suggests that people have been adhering to the lockdown rules and taking them very seriously over the first month or so. But by early May, we’ve started to see a shift with more activity in recent days. It may be that people have started to increase their movements in anticipation of the government announcement expected this weekend for easing lockdown.”

The data was supplied by Huq Industries and the UCL analysis shows that across the busiest UK regions between 16-22 March, there was roughly a 20% decline in activity compared to the week before lockdown; by 23-30 March, there was a 36% decline; and by the 13th of April, almost a 50% decline in activity. Activity began to increase from the 20th April and is now back to roughly 60% of pre-lockdown levels.

London had seen the biggest reduction in activity, with levels down 70% between the 13th and 19th April rebounding slightly to a smaller reduction of 63% in the week ending 3rd May. The week of the 13th was also quietest for Greater Manchester and the West Midlands with 46% and 50% reductions in normal activity respectively. Both have seen a rise in activity levels and now report reductions of only 30% compared to those pre-lockdown.

Regional activity levels have declined the most in areas dominated by workplaces of professionals, the financial sector, leisure and tourism. Today activity levels are highest in areas dominated by routine occupations, construction, domestic workers, manual helpers, and others employed in the health sectors.

Professor Cheshire said: “The findings further highlight a divide between those in jobs that can be done from home and those with jobs that must be carried out on site, with activity levels suggesting that those working in financial services in particular are in a better position to work remotely. This will have important implications for transport planning as operators seek staggered working hours mixed with homeworking where possible to reduce peak demand.”

The research also reveals for the first time that traditional high streets and local shopping areas have seen lower relative declines in activity compared to major centers and out of town areas.

Source: Read Full Article

A new plant-based system for the mass production of allergens for immunotherapy

Allergies can significantly affect health and quality of life. While allergen immunotherapy provides long-lasting therapeutic relief to people suffering from environmental allergies, the therapy can last several years and requires large amounts of allergen. Now, researchers from the University of Tsukuba developed a novel system that enables the mass production of the major birch pollen allergen Bet v 1 in plant leaves in just a matter of days. In a new study published in Frontiers in Plant Science, they showed that their system not only produces large amounts of Bet v 1, but the purified protein was also highly reactive towards the IgE antibodies in sera from individuals with birch pollen allergy.

“The idea of allergen immunotherapy is to desensitize the body’s response to the allergen by exposing patients to it in gradually increasing amounts,” says corresponding author of the study Professor Kenji Miura. “Because a significant drawback is the difficult, expensive and low-yield production of allergens, our goal was to develop a new system that allows for the rapid and massive production of allergens that can be used in the clinical setting.”

To achieve their goal, the researchers turned to their previously established “Tsukuba system,” which makes use of a method called agroinfiltration. They first introduced the gene for Bet v 1 into a specific type of bacteria called Agrobacterium tumefaciens and let them grow. They then immersed leaves of the plant Nicotiana benthamiana into the bacterial solution to bring the bacteria into close contact with the plant, so the bacteria could transfer the Bet v 1 gene to plant cells, which in turn started producing the protein. To test the quality of their product, the researchers also produced the protein in Brevibacillus brevis, which is a standard bacterial host for protein production.

“We were able to purify 1.2mg of Bet v 1 protein from 1g leaves in just 5 days,” explains Professor Miura. “This is a relatively large amount that is otherwise difficult to achieve using standard methods. Our next goal was to test whether our protein was immunogenic, which is a prerequisite for immunotherapy.”

The researchers isolated sera from individuals with birch pollen allergy and mixed them with Bet v 1 protein purified from plants and bacteria. In both cases, the researchers were able to show that Bet v 1-specific IgE from the patients’ sera, which is the antibody causing the allergy, was strongly reactive to their proteins.

Source: Read Full Article

Can't sleep? Try these acupressure techniques to help you drift off

When you’re tossing and turning and sleep just won’t come, you’ll try anything – fancy pillow sprays, herbal remedies, hypnotherapy apps, desperately ringing up a pal and asking them to tell you a bedtime story.

In these dire situations, it’s worth giving acupressure a go, mostly because it’s free, easy to do, and if it doesn’t work you haven’t lost anything.

And actually, it just might work. Then you’ll get to drift off into rest and everything will be dreamy.

We chatted to Renata Nunes, a physiotherapist, massage therapist, and acupuncturist, who shared her guide to simple acupressure techniques you can do on yourself at home to help you get some sleep.

‘Chinese medicine understands insomnia as disharmony between Yin and Yang,’ Renata explains.

‘The energy between Yin and Yang must be harmonious and must flow into each other in a daily cycle. Yang energy should flow during the day and Yin energy at night.

‘Yang is brilliant energy, the sun, the day, occurs intensely, Yin is passive energy, at night, it occurs in a timid way. Someone with insomnia has a greater Yang tendency than Yin.

‘Treatment must find the balance between Yin and Yang, fire and water. In this case, fire is represented by the heart and water is represented by the kidney.

‘The ideal would be to make an assessment to check the disharmonies of each patient. However, in this time of isolation, we can work with some points to help calm the mind and sleep better.’

Don’t get put off by the Yin and Yang talk – you don’t necessarily need to buy into all of that to see benefits from acupressure techniques.

Ready? Let’s try these.

Yintang – to calm the mind

Yintang describes the point right between the eyebrows.

Renata says: ‘Make a very gentle massage between the inner ends of the two eyebrows in a circular motion clockwise.

Also you can tap the point with your fingertip.

‘As you apply the pressure allow all the muscles of your forehead to relax. This is a good point to calm the mind and insomnia.’

GV 20 – to dispel negative thoughts

This is at the top of the head, in the middle of the line that connects the apex of the two ears. You can press the point down and back.

Try making circular movements counterclockwise direction.

Renata says this technique can also help to relieve headaches.

Heart 7

Applying pressure to this area is said to help relieve insomnia, irritability, and chest pain.

‘Draw a vertical line between your fourth and fifth finger and stop at the crease of the wrist,’ Renata explains. ‘The point is at the height of the wrist crease next to the tendon.

‘You can press the point and make circular movements in a clockwise direction. Also, you can rub the whole wrist.’

Kidney 6 – to nourish kidney Yin

This is the spot on the inner side of the foot, in the depression below the ankle .

Renata recommends pressing this point, making circular movements in a clockwise direction, and tapping it, to help ‘calm the mind, open the chest, and invigorate the kidney’.

Do you have a story to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

Share your views in the comments section below.

Source: Read Full Article

We may be able to eliminate coronavirus, but we’ll probably never eradicate it. Here’s the difference

Compared to many other countries around the world, Australia and New Zealand have done an exceptional job controlling COVID-19.

As of May 7, there were 794 active cases of COVID-19 in Australia. Only 62 were in hospital.

The situation in New Zealand is similar, with 136 active cases, only two of whom are in hospital.

If we continue on this path, could we eliminate COVID-19 from Australia and New Zealand?

Control –> elimination –> eradication

In order to answer this question, we first to need to understand what elimination means in the context of disease, and how it differs from control and eradication.

Disease control is when we see a reduction in disease incidence and prevalence (new cases and current cases) as a result of public health measures. The reduction does not mean to zero cases, but rather to an acceptable level.

Unfortunately, there’s no consensus on what is acceptable. It can differ from disease to disease and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

As an example, there were only 81 cases of measles reported in Australia in 2017. Measles is considered under control in Australia.

Conversely, measles is not regarded as controlled in New Zealand, where there was an outbreak in 2019. From January 1, 2019, to February 21, 2020, New Zealand recorded 2,194 measles cases.

For disease elimination, there must be zero new cases of the disease in a defined geographic area. There is no defined time period this needs to be sustained for—it usually depends on the incubation period of the disease (the time between being exposed to the virus and the onset of symptoms).

For example, the South Australian government is looking for 28 days of no new coronavirus cases (twice the incubation period of COVID-19) before they will consider it eliminated.

Even when a disease has been eliminated, we continue intervention measures such as border controls and surveillance testing to ensure it doesn’t come back.

For example, in Australia, we have successfully eliminated rubella (German measles). But we maintain an immunization schedule and disease surveillance program.

Finally, disease eradication is when there is zero incidence worldwide of a disease following deliberate efforts to get rid of it. In this scenario, we no longer need intervention measures.

Only two infectious diseases have been declared eradicated by the World Health Organisation – smallpox in 1980 and rinderpest (a disease in cattle caused by the paramyxovirus) in 2011.

Polio is close to eradication with only 539 cases reported worldwide in 2019.

Guinea worm disease is also close with a total of just 19 human cases from January to June 2019 across two African countries.

What stage are we at with COVID-19?

In Australia and New Zealand we currently have COVID-19 under control.

Importantly, in Australia, the effective reproduction number (Reff) is close to zero. Estimates of Reff come from mathematical modelling, which has not been published for New Zealand, but the Reff is likely to be close to zero in New Zealand too.

The Reff is the average number of people each infected person infects. So a Reff of 2 means on average, each person with COVID-19 infects two others.

If the Reff is greater than 1 the epidemic continues; if the Reff is equal to 1 it becomes endemic (that is, it grumbles along on a permanent basis); and if the Reff is lower than 1, the epidemic dies out.

So we could be on the way to elimination.

In both Australia and New Zealand we have found almost all of the imported cases, quarantined them, and undertaken contact tracing. Based on extensive community testing, there also appear to be very few community-acquired cases.

The next step in both countries will be sentinel surveillance, where random testing is carried out in selected groups. Hopefully in time these results will be able to show us COVID-19 has been eliminated.

It’s unlikely COVID-19 will ever be eradicated

To be eradicated, a disease needs to be both preventable and treatable. At the moment, we neither have anything to prevent COVID-19 (such as a vaccine) nor any proven treatments (such as antivirals).

Even if a vaccine does become available, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) easily mutates. So we would be in a situation like we are with influenza, where we need annual vaccinations targeting the circulating strains.

The other factor making COVID-19 very difficult if not impossible to eradicate is the fact many infected people have few or no symptoms, and people could still be infectious even with no symptoms. This makes case detection very difficult.

At least with smallpox, it was easy to see whether someone was infected, as their body was covered in pustules (fluid-containing swellings).

Source: Read Full Article

Finally! You Can Get Adult & Kids Face Masks at Old Navy

Unless you’ve been lucky enough to have sewing skills and spare breathable fabric lying around the house, you might be in the same boat as so many of us, still struggling to find good masks for our children and ourselves. Today we have good news for you: Old Navy has is now selling super cute, stylish kids masks and adult masks, at rather incredible prices.

The masks are in the kind of preppy and preppy prints Old Navy has always used for its shorts and pajamas. There are plaids, checks, paisleys, anchors, tropical motifs, stripes, polka dots, and the occasional Warhol-esque banana. You can’t choose, however. The kids masks and adult masks are sold in “surprise packs” of five for $12.50.

All the masks are three-ply 100 percent cotton, with elastic over-ear straps.

There is a catch here. As hospitals have known long before us, it’s pretty difficult to get something — even something as simply designed as a reusable cloth mask — into production very quickly, especially when we’re in the midst of a pandemic. So even Old Navy’s factories aren’t able to get us instant gratification here. These masks have only been available for pre-order since 5 a.m. ET Friday, are selling so fast that they the estimated shipping date is May 27 as of this writing. Get your orders in soon!

Our mission at SheKnows is to empower and inspire women, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes. 

Still mask shopping? Most of these kids masks are available right now.






Source: Read Full Article

Jenna Dewan Praises New Dad Steve Kazee After Welcoming Son Callum

Head over heels! Jenna Dewan is smitten with watching her fiancé, Steve Kazee, embrace fatherhood for the first time with their 2-month-old son, Callum.

The Flirty Dancing host, 39, shared a sweet picture via Instagram on Thursday, May 7, of Kazee, 44, and their son taking a nap together.

“Seeing you become a father is one of the greatest things I’ve ever witnessed,” Dewan captioned the photo. “The depth of emotion you feel, the love you share, the insane ability you have to do it ALL for all of us .. we are so lucky.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_5hzQ9De1Y/

Seeing you become a father is one of the greatest things I’ve ever witnessed. The depth of emotion you feel, the love you share, the insane ability you have to do it ALL for all of us..we are so lucky ❤️

A post shared byJenna Dewan (@jennadewan) on

The former World of Dance host gave birth to Callum in March — just one month after the couple got engaged at Dewan’s baby shower.

“And just like that, our hearts exploded into all of eternity and beyond,” Dewan wrote via Instagram at the time. “Welcome to the world you little angel! 3/6/20.”

One day later, Kazee explained how he and the former backup dancer settled on the name Callum for their son.

“We’ve had lots of questions about the name we choose for the little peanut so figured I would share a few things,” the Once star wrote via Instagram at the time. “Callum: Gaelic for Dove because he has been so sweet and peaceful since landing in our arms. Michael: My middle name. Rebel: I wanted a way to honor my mother. Her name was Reba but from a very young age, her father called her Rebel. And so … Callum Michael Rebel Kazee was born.”

Us Weekly confirmed in October 2018 that Dewan and the Kentucky native were dating six months after she and her ex-husband, Channing Tatum, split. The former couple — who were married from 2009 to 2018 — share 6-year-old daughter, Everly.

Dewan and Kazee announced their engagement in February via Instagram. The Tamara star shared a picture of the duo kissing captioned, “A lifetime to love and grow with you…you have my heart.”

Kazee, meanwhile, wrote at the time, “When you wake in the morning I will kiss your face with a smile no one has ever seen. When you wake in the morning I will kiss your eyes and say it’s you I have loved all these years.”

For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!

Source: Read Full Article

Study shows stem cells constitute alternative approach for treating corneal scarring

Infection, inflammation, trauma, disease, contact lenses—all of these and more can lead to corneal scarring, which according to the World Health Organization is a leading cause of blindness worldwide. While corneal transplant remains the gold standard to treat this condition, patient demand far outweighs donor supply. However, in a study released today in Stem Cells Translational Medicine researchers demonstrate a potential solution to this major problem.

The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye that not only protects the eye, but allows light to enter and provides as much as 75 percent of the eye’s focusing power. When scarring occurs, the cornea clouds over and impacts vision. The stroma—the thick middle layer of the cornea—plays a pivotal role in normal visual function as it produces a variety of cellular products that support normal corneal development and maintenance.

“As such, corneal stromal stem cells (SSCs) show promise for replacing conventional donor tissues as they are potentially able to regenerate the corneal stromal extracellular matrix, which is essential for maintaining corneal transparency,” said study leader Vincent Borderie, M.D., Ph.D., and first author Djida Ghoubay, Ph.D, both of the Institut de la Vision, Sorbonne Université, INSERM and CNRS. “Additionally, SSCs can be easily retrieved and cultured from the patient’s or donor’s eye.”

With this in mind, the two and their team, which included researchers from several other institutions in Paris, set out to determine the therapeutic effect of these adult stem cells and whether they might indeed restore the cornea to its pre-injured state. They tested their theory on a new mouse model created especially for the study.

Younger mice (four weeks old) were selected, as the researchers were hoping to mimic a stromal scarring condition called keratoconus that generally occurs in teenagers or young adults. They sedated the mice, then did an epithelial scraping followed by an application of liquid nitrogen (N2) to the corneal surface of each mouse’s left eye. Its right eye was left untouched for comparison.

After the injured corneas had scarred over and become opaque—approximately three weeks after injury—the mice were divided into groups. One group received injections of murine (mouse) stromal stem cells (MSSCs) at the injured site. A second group received injections of human stromal stem cells (HSSCs). A third group received sham injections, and a fourth group received no SSCs, as a control. The animals’ eyes were then examined for several indicators of corneal health, with the assessments occurring just before the N2 application and then repeated in intervals up to three months after.

“Results showed that injection of SSCs resulted in improved corneal transparency associated with corneal SSC migration and growth in the recipient stroma without inflammatory response. Moreover, decreased stromal haze, corneal rigidity and improved vision were observed,” Dr. Borderie reported.

Dr. Ghoubay added, “Interestingly, the injected HSSCs showed a different fate compared with the MSSCs. In fact, the former were still detected three months after injection, whereas the latter were no longer detected following the first month. As labeling is lost with cell divisions, we can hypothesize that xenogeneic HSSC divide slower than allogeneic MSSC after injection.”

“In conclusion,” Drs. Borderie and Ghoubay said, “our study demonstrates the ability of corneal SSCs to promote regeneration of transparent stromal tissue. Injection of corneal SSCs can constitute an alternative approach in the treatment of corneal scarring.”

Source: Read Full Article

Kelly Clarkson Says Son Is Finding His Personality After Singer Initially Thought He Was 'Deaf'




"The one qualification that most people don't have to be a teacher, it's not even the education as much as it is the patience," she adds. "It's so hard to keep your mind and emotional state together. We're used to going to a place of business and working and then coming home and that's your relaxed place, and that's where you have fun. The same thing for kids [with school]."

"On top of that, we thought we were going to be here for a minute, but we didn't know we were going to be here this long and we don't have a home here. So we've been staying in a cabin," Clarkson shares. "We've been in really close quarters and it's been kind of nuts, I'm not going to lie."

"At the end of the day, I know people who have had coronavirus and I'm just very lucky and we're very blessed to not have been sick," she notes. "We keep reminding our kids of that and we keep reminding each other of that. But we definitely have some cabin fever going on."

Moms-to-be can enter for the ShowHER Love event at showherlove.carters.com.

Source: Read Full Article

The role of miRNAs in glioblastoma multiforme

Glioblastoma multiforme is one of the most malignant tumors of the central nervous system. It is characterized by the fast growth and high malignancy. Although surgery combined with radiation therapy and chemotherapy has been widely used for the treatment of glioblastoma, the prognosis is still very poor. Furthermore, chemoresistance and radioresistance are the typical hallmarks of the recurrent glioblastoma. Thus, it is necessary to identify all the potential therapeutic targets for glioblastoma and to clarify its underlying mechanism.

In recent years, attention has been paid to the role of microRNAs in the development, diagnosis, and prognosis of gliomas. Thus, the team of researchers from the Cancer Hospital of China Medical University revealed that miR-129-5p, and ZFP36L1 gene were functionally involved in the hallmarks glioblastoma. This includes the tumor proliferation, migration, and tumor colony-forming abilities.

Source: Read Full Article

Obesity is linked to gut microbiota disturbance, but not among statin-treated individuals

In 2012, the European Union MetaCardis consortium, comprising 14 research groups from six European countries with multidisciplinary expertise set out to investigate a potential role of the gut microbiota in the development of cardio-metabolic diseases. This project, coordinated by Prof Karine Clément at INSERM (France) studies more than 2,000 deeply phenotyped European participants in health and at different stages of cardiometabolic disease (obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases).

Today, research teams led by Jeroen Raes (VIB-KU Leuven) and Prof. Clément (INSERM, Paris), together with the Metacardis consortium, publish their first findings in the authoritative journal Nature, identifying the common cholesterol-lowering drug statins as a potential microbiota-modulating therapeutic.

In their manuscript entitled “Statin therapy associates with lower prevalence of gut microbiota dysbiosis,” Jeroen Raes (VIB-KU Leuven) and colleagues explore gut bacteria in a Metacardis cohort subset comprising nearly 900 individuals from three countries (France, Denmark and Germany) with BMI ranging between 18 and 73 kg.m-2. While the intestinal microbiota in obese individuals had previously been shown to differ from those in lean subjects, the unique experience of the Raes Lab in quantitative microbiome profiling allowed the researchers to shed a whole new light on microbiota alterations associated with obesity.

Prof. Jeroen Raes says, “Recently, our lab identified a single gut microbiota configuration (enterotype) with increased prevalence among patients suffering from intestinal inflammation (inflammatory bowel disease), multiple sclerosis, and depression. We observed this disturbed enterotype to be characterized by low bacterial abundances and biodiversity, notably deficient in some anti-inflammatory bacteria such as Faecalibacterium. In fact, even among healthy individuals, we detected slightly higher inflammation levels in carriers of what we refer to as the Bacteroides2 (Bact2) enterotype. As obesity is known to result in increased systemic inflammation levels, we hypothesized that Bact2 would also be more prevalent among obese study participants.”

Exploring gut microbiota configurations of lean and obese volunteers, the MetaCardis researchers observed that Bact2 prevalence increased with BMI. While only 4% of lean and overweight subjects were characterized as Bact2 carriers, percentages sharply rose to 19% among obese volunteers. The same trend was observed among 2,350 participants of the VIB-KU Leuven Flemish Gut Flora Project population cohort.

Sara Vieira-Silva (principal author, VIB-KU Leuven): “We found systemic inflammation in participants carrying the Bact2 enterotype to be higher than expected based on their BMI. Even though this study design does not allow inferring causality, our analyses do suggest that gut bacteria play a role in the process of developing obesity-associated comorbidities by sustaining inflammation. While these key findings confirmed our study hypothesis, the results we obtained when comparing statin-treated and -untreated participants came as a total surprise.”

Statins are commonly prescribed to reduce risk of developing cardio-metabolic diseases. Besides their target cholesterol-lowering effects, statins also tend to appease patients’ systemic inflammation levels. Now, Vieira-Silva and colleagues have identified an additional potential beneficial effect of statin therapy on the gut microbiota. In obese individuals, the prevalence of the dysbiotic Bact2 enterotype was significantly lower in those taking statins (6%) than in their non-treated counterparts (19%) – comparable to levels observed in non-obese participants (4%). These striking observations were validated not only in the independent Flemish Gut Flora Project dataset, but also in an additional MetaCardis subset consisting of 280 patients with cardiovascular diseases.

Sara Vieira-Silva says, “These results suggest statins could potentially modulate the harmful gut microbiota alterations sustaining inflammation in obesity. Several interpretations of our results remain possible. On one hand, by appeasing gut inflammation, statin therapy might contribute to a less hostile gut environment, allowing the development of a healthy microbiota. On the other hand, a direct impact of statins on bacterial growth has been previously demonstrated, which could possibly benefit non-inflammatory bacteria and underlie anti-inflammatory effects of statin therapy.”

For many years, microbiota modulation strategies have been revolving around dietary interventions, (next-generation) pro- and prebiotics, introducing or promoting growth of beneficial bacteria. Only recently, a revived interest in the effect of small molecules and drugs on the colon ecosystem appeared. This study will further fuel that momentum.

Prof. Jeroen Raes says, “The potential beneficial impact of statins on the gut microbiota opens novel perspectives in disease treatment, especially given the fact that we have associated the Bact2 enterotype with several pathologies in which a role of the gut microbiota has been postulated. Our results open a whole range of possibilities for novel, gut microbiota modulating drug development.”

At the same time, the MetaCardis team insists on a careful interpretation of their study results.

While promising, the findings reported are based on cross-sectional analyses, as opposed to following a treatment timeline. This means causality cannot be claimed based on these observations, nor can the researchers exclude that unaccounted factors could have played a role. For example, statin-medicated participants might have adopted a radically healthy lifestyle after being diagnosed with an increased risk of developing cardio-metabolic disease, which could have had a profound impact on their gut ecosystem.

“Thus,” the researchers warn, “while our results are definitely promising, they require further evaluation in a prospective clinical trial to ascertain whether the effect is reproducible in a randomized population, before considering the application of statins as microbiota-modulating therapeutics.”

The present study is part of a greater effort in unraveling the role of the gut microbiota in cardiovascular disease by the European Commission-sponsored MetaCardis consortium.

Source: Read Full Article