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SF Pledges Extra $1.2M to Cut Number of New HIV Cases to Zero

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When the Mentally Ill Get Entangled in the Criminal Justice System

The number of people with mental illness in California's prisons and jails has almost doubled in the last 15 years. In this hour, we'll look at what happens to those with mental illness when they land in the criminal justice system. We'll also discuss San Francisco's implementation of Laura's Law, which allows courts to force the mentally ill into treatment. Some advocates view this as a way to get people with severe mentally illness treatment before they commit crimes.

PBS NewsHour

Liberian boy dies after new Ebola cases emerge

The Ebola virus treatment center in Paynesville, Liberia, where four people were being treated for the disease on  July
         16, 2015. Liberia, months after being declared Ebola-free in September, has seen its first fatal case Monday. Photo James

The Ebola virus treatment center in Paynesville, Liberia, where four people were being treated for the disease on July 16, 2015. Liberia, months after being declared Ebola-free in September, has seen its first fatal case Monday. Photo James Giahyue/Reuters

After a fresh round of Ebola cases were announced in Liberia last week, a 15-year-old boy has died of the disease, the first fatal case for the embattled country after it was twice declared Ebola-free this year, health officials said Tuesday.

Nathan Gbotoe died Monday night at an Ebola treatment center near Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, where his father and brother are also being treated for the disease, said Francis Kateh, chief medical officer of Liberia’s Ebola Case Management System.

Health officials are monitoring more than 160 people, including several health workers, who are at risk for contracting Ebola after they had direct contact with the boy, the Associated Press reported.

Liberia said it requested the help of two experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. to determine the cause of the new cases, the AP reported.

In a press briefing Monday, the World Health Organization said the boy had “no obvious history of exposure to the virus because [he] hadn’t traveled or had not been exposed to someone with Ebola.”

WHO added that the organization believed the latest flare-up in Liberia could have started when someone came in direct contact with a virus that had persisted in an individual, a long-term effect of the virus.

WHO previously declared Liberia to be Ebola-free on May 9, but a crop of new confirmed cases led to two more deaths in June. The country was able to bring the number of transmissions to zero again on Sept. 3 until Gbotoe and his family, including the boy’s mother and two other siblings who were considered “high risk contacts,” were isolated at an Ebola treatment center last week.

What looks like an ordinary greenhouse is actually an around-the-clock Ebola vaccine factory. At a facility in Kentucky, plants are being injected with a protein in order to spur them into producing one of the three antibodies used in the experimental drug ZMapp. Video by PBS NewsHour

Liberia, one of three West African nations hardest hit by the Ebola virus, has seen more than 10,600 Ebola cases and more than 4,800 deaths, according to WHO. Since the virus was detected in March 2014, more than 11,300 deaths have been recorded.

Sierra Leone was declared free of the virus on Nov. 7, and unless a new confirmed case emerges, Guinea recently started its own countdown of 42 days, or two incubation periods, to end Ebola transmission.

The post Liberian boy dies after new Ebola cases emerge appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

How to grow an Ebola vaccine with a tobacco plant

LIFE AFTER EBOLA mon ebola virus image

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GWEN IFILL: we turn to the search for a treatment for Ebola.

West Africa is still dealing with the aftermath of the worst outbreak of the disease in recorded history. Last week, Liberia reported a handful of new cases, just months after the World Health Organization said the country was free of the disease.

And this weekend, not one, but two panels said the WHO needs to substantially reform and change the way it deals with international health crises.

Special correspondent Mary Jo Brooks has a report on the hunt to finally stop the virus.

MARY JO BROOKS: It looks like an ordinary greenhouse filled with plants basking under light, but at this facility just outside Owensboro, Kentucky, the plants themselves have become a labor force, working around the clock to manufacture a cure for Ebola.

HUGH HAYDON, CEO, Kentucky Bioprocessing: These plants are 27 days old.

MARY JO BROOKS: Three days earlier, these plants were injected with a genetic blueprint for one of three antibodies used in the experimental drug ZMapp.

Hugh Haydon of Kentucky Bioprocessing explains how it works.

HUGH HAYDON: The plant recognizes that gene and its machinery turns on and it starts to manufacture that protein for us. And it’s really that simple. It becomes a little bitty factory.

MARY JO BROOKS: ZMapp was still in the developmental stage when Ebola first broke out in West Africa in March of 2014. The disease has since claimed more than 10,000 victims. But a handful of people were successfully tweeted with ZMapp, including Dr. Kent Brantly.

DR. KENT BRANTLY, Ebola Survivor: Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family.

MARY JO BROOKS: Since then, the drug has being undergoing clinical trials in West Africa and the FDA has granted it fast-track approval status.

Larry Zeitlin and Kevin Whaley are the scientists from San Diego who developed the ZMapp antibodies, which were designed to quickly attack the Ebola virus.

KEVIN WHALEY, Inventor of ZMapp: In a vaccine, you give a person a protein that stimulates your own body to make antibodies. In this case, we’re giving antibodies directly to you, so your body doesn’t have to make them.

LARRY ZEITLIN, Inventor of ZMapp: And unlike the vaccine, where it takes you weeks to months to build up protective immunity, as soon as the antibodies are provided to the patients, they’re protected against that disease.

MARY JO BROOKS: Speed is the name of the game in fighting infectious disease. And it is the reason that Whaley and Zeitlin decided to manufacture their drug using plants, rather than the traditional animal protein method.

They chose an Australian relative the American tobacco plant in a process that is quick and relatively simple. Just three weeks after the seeds go into the soil, the plants are mature enough to be dipped into a liquid which contains proteins to be replicated.

The plants grow those proteins for another week, and then are harvested and chopped up. The resulting green liquid is filtered and tested and, by day 40, it’s ready to be shipped out.

HUGH HAYDON: It’s a very fast system. And if it’s faster, it costs a little bit less on the front end particularly. It gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of developing a product.

You get your protein. You look at your protein. Is it what you wanted? If it doesn’t have the exact characteristics that you want, you do it again. You reengineer it and do it again until you get exactly where you want to be.

MARY JO BROOKS: The system of biofarming could be useful for a number of drug therapies that must ramp up production quickly. The Canadian company Medicago uses tobacco plants to manufacture flu vaccine, which needs to change seasonally.

At its large greenhouse in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, workers and robots tend to the growing plants.

DR. MICHAEL SCHUNK, Vice President of Operations, Medicago: They produce the vaccine over about a week.

MARY JO BROOKS: So it’s a very quick, efficient process.

DR. MICHAEL SCHUNK: It’s very quick, very efficient, very adaptable.

MARY JO BROOKS: Michael Schunk is the vice president of operations.

DR. MICHAEL SCHUNK: This plant technology can respond in about half the time of the traditional flu manufacturing technologies, so that’s what started us into the flu, and we have just continued to grow with that.

MARY JO BROOKS: Medicago is in the final stage of clinical trials to receive FDA approval for its flu vaccine. Once granted, the company says it will be able to make 30 million doses a year. It has also begun producing an Ebola drug similar to ZMapp.

Both Medicago and Kentucky Bioprocessing received Defense Department money to develop their pharmaceuticals. The hope is that the technology could be used to quickly counter a pandemic or bioterrorism attack.

DR. MICHAEL SCHUNK: This facility is about 27,000 square feet.

MARY JO BROOKS: But Michael Schunk says the technology holds promise for all kinds of drugs. He’s especially optimistic that developing nations will use this method to manufacture vaccines on their own soil, since the cost of building the facilities is much less than traditional drug factories.

DR. MICHAEL SCHUNK: This is not a very complicated technology. It’s certainly transportable. Every country has greenhouses, so every country has the potential to have a facility that can be used to produce vaccines that maybe are more a concern to that particular country.

MARY JO BROOKS: Schunk and other biofarming proponents predict that soon drugs to treat herpes, HIV, MRSA, and other infectious diseases will routinely be grown in plants. Of course, the irony of using a version of tobacco to save lives is not lost on anyone, including Hugh Haydon.

HUGH HAYDON: There is some irony. There is no question about that.

But what our business is about and what we have — what we have always been about is using the plant to create things and to do positive things. Our focus has been biopharmaceuticals and using the plant to yield those kind of proteins. And it works really well for that.

MARY JO BROOKS: Biopharmaceuticals, plants that one day could be used routinely to wipe out infectious diseases.

The post How to grow an Ebola vaccine with a tobacco plant appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

3-D printers put limb prosthetics for kids in reach


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GWEN IFILL: A professor from Upstate New York is using technology to transform the world, especially for young people in need of limbs.

He shares his experience in his own words as part of this trip down innovation trail, a series of reports on the economy and technology in Upstate New York.

This report was produced by WXXI in Rochester.

JON SCHULL, Rochester Institute of Technology: I’m Jon Schull. I’m a research scientist here at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where I’m in the Center for Magic. RIT is a center for media, arts, games, interaction and creativity, where I run a lab on access and collaboration technology, which is how I got started founding an organization called e-NABLE — e-NABLE.

And what we do is, we make mechanical hands for children who are missing fingers using 3-D printers, and we give them away for free. Just like printing a document, you press print and the 3-D printer starts building this object that you designed on the screen by putting down tiny thin layers of plastic like a glue gun, layer by layer by layer, building it up to make the thing.

A prosthetic arm these days costs about $40,000. One in 2,000 kids are born with some kind of an arm or hand abnormality. They don’t get prosthetics because it makes no sense to spend $40,000 on something they’re going to outgrow in a year. With a 3-D printer, we can start making these things almost for nothing.

Instead of $40,000, you can do it with about $10 or $20 worth of plastic. And it’s not as sturdy as a $40,000 titanium artificial arm. On the other hand, if you outgrow it or break it, you can make another.

One of the interesting things about this project is that the kids that we’re making these hands for are becoming inventors and designers in their own right.

I was working with Derek a few months ago. And I was showing him this artificial arm that we are working on and explaining that we needed kids to work with us as test pilots and as collaborators. And while I’m talking to him, he put two of these models together and he said, “I would like my arm to be this long.”

So, Derek now has an arm which is extra long. He can pick things up off the floor without bending over and he can reach to the highest shelf, higher than his classmates, because he has got an extra long arm, the so-called Derek Arm, which just goes to show that 7-year-olds and 9-year-olds can play a really important role helping us invent the solutions for other kids and other grownups in the future.

You know, disability is a funny word. Disability means you can’t do something. It’s not a disease, and it’s not even a property of a person. A person doesn’t have a disability. A person has a disability if he’s in a world where he can’t do something.

If I didn’t have glasses in a world in which there’s lot of fine print, I would be disabled. As it is, I’m just a guy who wears glasses.

The technology of eyeglasses turned nearsightedness and farsightedness into a nuisance, when it used to be a disability. New technology is going to turn things like you’re missing a hand or you can’t move your body or you have brain damage into a nuisance, rather than a disability.

Editor’s Note: Jon Schull’s name was incorrectly spelled as Schull.

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For some people’s diets, ice cream is … a good thing?

Personalized nutrition may trump carb cutting when it comes to successful diets, according to a new study of 800 subjects.
         Photo by Cultura RM/Diana Miller via Getty Images

Personalized nutrition may trump carb cutting when it comes to successful diets, according to a new study of 800 subjects. Photo by Cultura RM/Diana Miller via Getty Images

Dieting is always unpleasant. Who wants to ditch the cookie or forgo the pizza slice? But what if the cookie isn’t all that bad for you? What’s if it’s not bad at all?

That’s the premise of an Israel-based study that represents the largest single investigation to-date into how different people respond to identical meals. The study, published Thursday in the journal Cell, suggests that a cookie might actually be beneficial to some folks, as it relates to their personal metabolism — how their bodies convert food into energy. The team argues the key to a successful diet and reaching health goals may lie in personalized nutrition. And they’ve designed an app to help people keep track.

Researchers studied the metabolic responses of 800 people by measuring their blood sugar following a carb-heavy meal. Why blood sugar? Well, the carbohydrates from the food you eat are broken down into simple sugars, which are then absorbed into your intestines and through your bloodstream. High sugar levels have been associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and weight gain.

RECIPE: Here’s how you make Thanksgiving dinner in one pan

“Blood glucose levels are a major contributor to these epidemics,” said Eran Segal, a computational biologist from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who co-led the study. “Normalizing blood glucose can have highly beneficial effects on the health of individuals.”

Segal along with Weizmann immunologist Eran Elinav examined the factors that affect blood glucose levels, such as the nutritional content of meals, as well as a person’s lifestyle, medical state and the gut microbiome — the billions of bacteria living in our gut.

Eight hundred volunteers were directed to eat a specific breakfast diet for one week that consisted of plain bread on two days, bread and butter on two days and glucose and fructose mixed with water on the final three days. They were given no other dietary restrictions. Each breakfast contained 1.7 ounces of carbohydrates. That’s important because prior research had looked at how individuals respond to identical meals, but those studies worked on a relatively small scale — 10 to 20 people — and only examined one to three food items.

Segal, Elinav and their colleagues collected data from health questionnaires, body measurements, blood tests and stool samples. The volunteers used a mobile app, created specifically for this study, to log variables like meals, sleep times, exercises, medication use and hunger levels. Blood glucose levels were measured using a glucometer, a device that has a sensor with a thin flexible probe that is inserted under the skin.

Using this data, the scientists created a computer algorithm that successfully predicted the blood sugar response of the participants.

Key features of the smartphone-adjusted website that we developed for meal logging and daily activity collection. Photo
         by Zeevi et al., 2015, Cell.

Key features of the smartphone-adjusted website that we developed for meal logging and daily activity collection. Photo by Zeevi et al., 2015, Cell.

The same algorithm also predicted the sugar responses for another independent batch of 100 new subjects. The team then used the app to create custom diets for a second batch of 26 subjects. Those diets resulted in blood glucose levels that more than doubled and also seemed tweak the subjects’ gut microbiome. This finding supports the concept that gut microbes play a role in how we respond to foods.

The study reinforced something that doctors and dietitians have suspected for a long time: We all respond differently to different foods.

“We had already made the assumption many years ago that human genetic variation accounts for differences in our metabolism, in our physiology and the way we respond to environments,” said Dr. Raymond Rodriguez of University of California at Davis, who wasn’t involved in the study. “ This paper is a step forward in terms of validating that people will respond differently and you can quantitatively measure it.”

Researchers say the same algorithm could be used to construct diets to effectively lower blood glucose levels in healthy people. In future studies, they plan to test the app with non-Western diets and those who have metabolic disorders, such as diabetes.

Both Rodriguez and Segal said that there has been a tendency to put everyone under the same nutritional umbrella. People are often given generic diet recommendations: fewer fatty foods, less red meat and more fruits and vegetables – all recommendations that everyone and their grandmother would have given you. However, times are changing.

“Our study demonstrates that a multitude of different factors affect our responses to food and that personalized nutritional strategies would therefore be much more effective than general dietary recommendations,” said Segal. “We believe that with the recent technological advances, the time is now ripe for … improving the way we design and prescribe dietary interventions.”

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