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April 15, 2013

Researchers create rat kidneys in a laboratory

Researchers create rat kidneys in a laboratory

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Cross section of a human kidney.
Image: Holly Fischer.

Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital have created laboratory-grown rat kidneys that function when transplanted into rats according to a study published online yesterday in the medical journal Nature Medicine.

The kidneys were capable of urine production and excretion without blood clots in both the laboratory and inside living rats. The researchers were able to create the functional kidneys by using a donor kidney and using a detergent to remove the rats’ kidney cells, then used new cells to cause the kidney to grow around the remaining “scaffolding,” the natural protein-based structure of the kidney that remained after washing the kidney.

These kidneys would also be of the patient’s tissue avoiding issues of organ rejection and would increase the pool of kidneys available for human transplant.

The researchers incubated the kidneys in a specialized oven for 12 days to mimic the insides of a rat. The researchers reported that these kidneys produced urine at 23% of the normal levels of properly working kidneys.

The lead researcher of the study published in Nature Medicine, Dr. Harald C. Ott, says this partial functionality is enough, saying, “If you’re on haemodialysis then kidney function of 10% to 15% would already make you independent of hemodialysis. It’s not that we have to go all the way.”

The techniques developed by Ott and the team of researchers still have to be further researched before it can be applied for use in humans. When it comes time for use in humans, Ott says that pigs’ kidneys would be used as the templates for making human-usable kidneys.

Ott said, “You’d take a kidney matrix off the shelf. Then in an ideal world, you’d take cells from that patient and create a kidney on demand.”

Roughly 100,000 patients in the United States need an immediate kidney transplant, with 500,000 more on dialysis.



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February 16, 2013

2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships preparations underway

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ramon Moliner, Ivan Tibau, Mariona Masdemont and Enric Ticó at Tuesday’s flag exchange
Image: IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships La Molina 2013.

Preparations are underway ahead of the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championship, with a flag exchange taking place Tuesday, volunteer recruitment ongoing, USParalympics unveiling a new uniform for their team, skiers like the United States’s Jon Lujan actively training for the event and other skiers competing in preparation for the Championships in a World Cup event Wednesday.

Tuesday in La Molina, Spain, the president of Governmental Railways of Catalonia, Enric Ticó, and the mayor of Alp, Ramon Moliner, were gifted with flags by representatives of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and Catalan Government at a ceremony in Colet Museum of Barcelona at one of the first official events ahead of the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championship, which starts next week. As of Wednesday, event organisers were still seeking volunteers to assist with running the Championship. The opening ceremonies are scheduled for next Tuesday.

Entering the event, skiers had the opportunity to qualify through eight World Cup events held with only two disciplines on the program, Giant Slalom and Slalom. The first four were held in Sestriere, Italy, with the most recent four all being held in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Standing female French skier Marie Bochet has won six World Cups ahead of the World Championships and is considered by event organizers as a favorite in the standing group. Russian standing skier Alexey Bugaev is also considered a favorite by organisers as he won two Slalom and one Giant Slalom World Cup competition. In the women’s sit-ski, German Anna Schaffelhuber is considered the favorite having prepared for the Championships by winning five of the eight World Cup events. On the men’s sit-ski side, Japanese Takeshi Suzuki and Swiss Christoph Kunz both earned three World Cup victories in the lead up to this competition. In the women’s visually impaired group, Slovak Henrieta Farkasova will enter the competition with five World Cup victories. On the men’s side, Spanish Jon Santacana is favored to win with three Giant Slalom and one Slalom victory during this year’s World Cup events in the lead up to the World Championships.

British Combined Services Disabled Ski Team coach Mark Scorgie has noted that this year’s European ski season has been problematic with weather interfering with most competitions. Poor weather conditions continued Wednesday Rogla IPC Alpine World Cup, with the first Giant Slalom run canceled because of high winds.

The World Championships includes over 270 skiers, guides, coaches and support personnel from 28 countries including Spain, France, Australia, Ukraine, Netherlands, Croatia, Finland, Switzerland, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Turkey, Belgium, Norway, Russia, Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada, Slovakia, Czech Republic, United States, Austria, New Zealand, Sweden, Hungary, and South Africa..

The Spanish team includes blind skier Jon Santacana and his guide Miguel Galindo, and blind skier Gabriel Gorce and his guide Arnau Ferrer. Both vision-impaired skiers are scheduled to compete in the Downhill, Super G, Super Combined, Giant Slalom, and Slalom competitions. Also on the Spanish team are LW2 classified standing skier Úrsula Pueyo, LW12-1 classified sit skier Óscar Espallargas, and LW10-1 classified sit skier Nathalie Carpanedo who qualified as a wildcard entry. Pueyo, Espallargas, and Carpanedo are all scheduled to compete in the Slalom and Giant Slalom competitions. Accompanying the team are to be coaches Javier Gutierrez, Jordi Carbonell, and Andres Gomez, medical staff including Pablo Marquez and Josep Barrachina, and technical staffer Josep Bort.

Jones competing in the Super G at the last year’s IPC Nor-Am Cup
Image: Bidgee.

The United States team consists of Seattle, Washington-based vision-impaired skier Mark Bathum and his Colorado Springs-based guide Jessica Smith; Park City, Utah-based vision-impaired skier Danelle Umstead and guide Rob Umstead; retired Army and Clarksville, Tennessee-based Heath Calhoun; Brooklyn, New York-based Ralph Green; Colorado Springs-based Allison Jones; Palmer, Alaska-based Andrew Kurka; Burlington, Vermont-based Stephen Lawler; retired Marine and Littleton, Colorado-based Jon Lujan; Farmington, New Mexico-based Alana Nichols; Wenham, Massachusetts-based Laurie Stephens; Park City, Utah-based Stephani Victor; Franconia, New Hampshire-based Tyler Walker; and retired Coast Guard and Campton, New Hampshire-based Chris Devlin-Young.



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January 14, 2013

Healthcare workers, public officials struggle to address Influenza outbreak across much of U.S.

Healthcare workers, public officials struggle to address influenza outbreak across much of U.S.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

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The influenza virus under an electron microscope.
Image: CDC.

Physicians and others are struggling to address a growing outbreak of influenza affecting a large portion of the United States. Earlier this week, the Mayor of Boston declared a “flu emergency” for the city, as 700 cases of the virus were reported.

Public officials in Texas have urged citizens to receive a flu shot. The state’s public health Commissioner said in a press release, “The best thing people can do to protect themselves is to get a dose of flu vaccine now.” Doctors are telling citizens to wash their hands, get a flu shot and avoid sick people if possible to lessen chances of catching the virus. However, a report released on Friday noted that 7.3% of deaths last week were a result of pneumonia and the flu.

A total of 20 children in the United States have died during this flu season from flu-related illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control reports nine out of 10 regions in the United States had “elevated” flu activity. These data indicate that seasonal flu has spread and reached high levels several weeks before the usual time of late January or February. New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state-wide public health emergency on Saturday. He also issued an executive order which allows pharmacists to administer flu vaccinations to patients between six months and 18 years of age.



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Gun control debate continues a month after Sandy Hook

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Monday, January 14, 2013

With the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School a month ago, the gun control debate in the United States continues but without any introduction of legislation on the floor of the United States congress. The President of the United States has not yet offered any legislative proposals for consideration for Congress though he announced plans yesterday to do so to following the release of a report by Vice President Joe Biden later in the week. While the President and Congress have been slow to act, the State of New York appears poised to become the first state to pass gun control legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

The most recent attempt by a USA Congressperson to submit legislation to address the issue of guns and child safety dates to January 2011, with H.R.227 – Child Gun Safety and Gun Access Prevention Act of 2011. The bill was put forward by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, and then went nowhere. Other attempts by people inside the United States Congress to enact some form of gun control in recent years include the April 2011 bill, H.R.1552 — Preventing Gun Violence Act put forward by Representative Steve Israel of New York that intended to prevent juvenile offenders from being able to buy guns. This bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security in November 2011, and also went nowhere.

Other gun control legislation has been introduced in the past several years, but most of it is intended to prevent gun trafficking instead of limiting ownership rights inside the United States. An example of this type of legislation is S.1973 – Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2012, put forward by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer of New York, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts in December 2011. This bill was read twice, referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and has gone nowhere since December 2011 with the exception of Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii adding himself as a co-sponsor in April 2012.



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January 13, 2013

FAA orders review of Boeing 787 Dreamliners following week of incidents

FAA orders review of Boeing 787 Dreamliners following week of incidents

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

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A Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner sits idle on the tarmac at Boston’s Logan International Airport following a electrical fire on board.
Image: Patrick Mannion.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered a review Friday into the design and manufacture of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, following five incidents in five days involving the aircraft and two Japanese airlines.

On Monday, an electrical fire broke out aboard a Japan Airlines 787 at Boston’s Logan International Airport, when a battery pack which powers the auxiliary power unit, for when the plane is on the ground, caught fire. The fire was discovered by maintenance workers after passengers and crew disembarked following their flight from Tokyo’s Narita Airport.

The next day, a separate Japan Airlines 787, also at Logan International Airport, heading to Tokyo, suffered a fuel leak that spilled around 40 gallons, which was spotted by the crew of the aircraft taxiing behind them. “That Japan Air may know it, but they’ve got fuel or something spilling out the outboard left wing. Quite a bit,” said the pilot of aircraft behind them on local air traffic control frequencies.

Wednesday, in Japan, an All Nippon Airways 787, the launch customer for the aircraft, cancelled a flight after a brake problem was reported.

Earlier Friday, two All Nippon Airways suffered separate incidents in Japan. An oil leak was noticed in the engine after one aircraft had landed in Miyazaki, coming from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Another flight, flying between Haneda Airport and Matsuyama said the pilot’s side window in the cockpit suffered a crack.

The FAA in a statement said “In light of a series of recent events, the FAA will conduct a comprehensive review of the Boeing 787 critical systems, including the design, manufacture and assembly.” Further adding, “The purpose of the review is to validate the work conducted during the certification process and further ensure that the aircraft meets the FAA’s high level of safety.”

According to the statement, “The review will also examine how the electrical and mechanical systems interact with each other.” The Boeing 787 relies more on electrical, as opposed to mechanical, systems than past aircraft from the manufacturer including having electronics operate hydraulic pumps and using electric brakes. Large portions of the plane’s structure use lightweight carbon fiber composite instead of more traditional metal airframe.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “The safety of the traveling public is our top priority […] This review will help us look at the root causes and do everything we can to safeguard against similar events in the future.”

“We are confident that the aircraft is safe. But we need to have a complete understanding of what is happening,” said newly sworn-in FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta. “We are conducting the review to further ensure that the aircraft meets our high safety standards.”

Boeing released a statement saying, “[The company] is confident in the design and performance of the 787. It is a safe and efficient airplane. The airplane has logged 50,000 hours of flight and there are more than 150 flights occurring daily.”



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December 31, 2012

Expected U.S. Senate special election taking shape in Massachusetts

Expected U.S. Senate special election taking shape in Massachusetts

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Monday, December 31, 2012

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With Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts’s nomination and likely approval as U.S. President Barack Obama’s choice to replace the retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Kerry’s Senate seat is expected soon to be vacated, making necessary a special election to choose a new Senator. That potential race is now taking shape with two candidates having emerged as the frontrunners for their respective parties’ nominations: Republican Senator Scott Brown and Democratic Representative Ed Markey.

Republican Senator Scott Brown
Image: United States Congress.

Massachusetts law adopted in 2004 requires a vacated seat to be filled permanently through special election held 145 to 160 days following vacation. This law was passed purportedly to prevent then-Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, from naming a replacement for Kerry, who was at the time, the Democratic presidential nominee. No such election occurred until long-time Senator Ted Kennedy died in office, vacating his seat in 2009. At the time, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick named Democrat Paul G. Kirk as a temporary replacement. Kirk chose not to run for the seat, and instead the Democrats nominated Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who lost to Brown. Now, Patrick reportedly wishes to again name a temporary replacement who will not run in the special election. Candidates for this position include: Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of Ted Kennedy; former governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis; and the retiring Congressman Barney Frank.

Amid the Senate’s consideration of the Affordable Health Care for America Act, Brown’s 2010 election broke the Democrats’ filibuster-proof super-majority in the chamber. As the first Massachusetts Republican elected since Edward Brooke in 1972, Brown gained a reputation in the Senate as a political moderate, stressing bipartisanship. However, in the most expensive Senate race in the nation’s history in 2012, he lost the seat to the liberal Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, who tied him to conservative Senate Republicans. After the defeat, Republican Senators Dan Coats of Indiana, John McCain of Arizona, and Olympia Snowe of Maine each asked Brown to run for Senate again. He alluded to a potential return during his farewell address earlier in December, noting, “As I’ve said many times before, victory and defeat is temporary … Depending on what happens, and where we go, all of us, we may obviously meet again.” Though former Governor William Weld is also considered a potential Republican primary candidate, Brown leads him in opinion polls by a wide margin. Additionally, a December 17–18 poll conducted by WBUR shows Brown with a 58 percent favorability rate in his state and ahead of potential Democratic nominees Markey, former Congressman Marty Meehan, and Congressmen Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch.

Democratic Representative Ed Markey
Image: United States Congress.

Patrick, Kennedy, Coakley, and Meehan have all denied interest in the seat as have other Democrats speculated to jump in including actor Ben Affleck and attorney Edward M. Kennedy, Jr., Ted Kennedy’s son. Though Lynch and Capuano have expressed interest in the seat, Markey is thus far the only announced candidate. In a statement to The Boston Globe, Markey affirmed “this fight is too important” not to run and “there is so much at stake” in the election. He added that an official announcement would come in January. Markey, who has served in Congress since 1976, previously ran for the Senate seat in 1984 but withdrew before the primary; Kerry went on to win the primary and seat that year. Markey intends to focus his campaign on global warming, gun control, protection of Social Security and Medicare, and government spending for jobs. He has secured endorsements from both Kerry and Victoria Kennedy, and with a war chest of $3.1 million from his congressional campaigns, has significantly more funds than any of his potential primary opponents. According to political scientist Peter Ubertaccio of Stonehill College, that may discourage prominent Democrats thinking about entering the race. Nevertheless, State Senator Benjamin Downing has announced he is exploring a potential bid.

Though Markey has more money than Brown’s $464,000 left from his 2012 campaign, Ubertaccio, in his analysis of the race, notes Brown has more recent campaign experience than Markey, who has not had a competitive campaign lately. Moreover, he finds Markey “very much a creature of Washington, which can be problematic in a tough statewide race.” He sees the rush to support Markey as unusual, and as a way to discourage Democratic challengers to Markey. Jon Keller of Boston’s CBS affiliate notes the rush was likely to allow Markey to begin attacks on Brown rather than Democrats, but he concludes the lack of choice for Democrats may give Brown an advantage as an outsider running against the insiders’ hand-picked successor.



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November 7, 2012

United States re-elects Barack Obama

United States re-elects Barack Obama – Wikinews, the free news source

United States re-elects Barack Obama

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama speaking to troops at Bagram Airfield in May.
Image: Bill Gowdy, US Navy.

Incumbent U.S. President Barack Obama has been projected enough electoral votes to win re-election, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. Many of the major media outlets have called the election for Obama.

Obama’s campaign succeeded in gaining the vote in the battleground states of Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and New Hampshire. Romney won in Indiana and North Carolina, two states Obama won in 2008.

Obama thanked voters via Twitter, posting: “This happened because of you. Thank you.”

In the race for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, who helped set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, defeated incumbent Republican Scott Brown. In Wisconsin, Democrat Tammy Baldwin defeated Tommy Thompson for U.S. Senate and will be the first openly gay member of the Senate. In Missouri, Senator Claire McCaskill defeated her Republican challenger Todd Akin. In August, Akin suggested that women who are victims of “legitimate” rape are unable to get pregnant.



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United States re-elects Obama

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama speaking to troops at Bagram Airfield in May.
Image: Bill Gowdy, US Navy.

Incumbent U.S. President Barack Obama has been projected enough electoral votes to win re-election, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. Many of the major media outlets have called the election for Obama.

Obama’s campaign succeeded in persuading voters in the battleground states of Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and New Hampshire. Romney won in Indiana and North Carolina, two states Obama won in 2008.

Obama thanked voters via Twitter, posting: “This happened because of you. Thank you.”

In the race for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, who helped set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, defeated incumbent Republican Scott Brown. In Wisconsin, Democrat Tammy Baldwin defeated Tommy Thompson for U.S. Senate and will be the first openly gay member of the Senate. In Missouri, Senator Claire McCaskill defeated her Republican challenger Todd Akin. In August, Akin suggested that women who are victims of “legitimate” rape are unable to get pregnant.



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Voters in Maine and Maryland vote for marriage equality

Voters in Maine and Maryland vote for marriage equality

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gay rights supporters in Minnesota earlier in the year protesting against the vote by the Minnesota House to put marriage to the popular vote.
Image: Fibonacci Blue.

In Maine and Maryland, voters have approved ballot measures yesterday to allow marriage between same-sex partners. Votes for a similar measure in Washington are still being counted. Reports from Minnesota suggest a ballot measure that would amend the constitution to ban gay marriage has been rejected by voters.

In Maryland, voters supported the law passed earlier this year by Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley 52% to 48%. Josh Levin from Marylanders for Marriage Equality said that voters would “feel the ripples of this monumental victory across the country for years to come.”

Supporters of marriage equality in Maine stated they had 250,000 one-on-one conversations with voters. Matt McTighe from Mainers United for Marriage celebrated the passage of the Maine ballot initiative saying: “A lot of families in Maine just became more stable and secure.”

Chad Griffin from the gay rights group the Human Rights Campaign said: “When the history books are written, 2012 will be remembered as the year when LGBT Americans won decisively at the ballot box.”

Frank Schubert, an opponent of gay marriage, downplayed the results. “The fact that an uber-liberal state like Maine or Washington might go for same sex marriage, it doesn’t mean that the country has changed.”

Six other states — Vermont, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts — as well as the District of Columbia already recognise same-sex marriage. In May, Barack Obama announced that he supports legalisation of same-sex marriage.



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October 14, 2012

Meningitis outbreak spreads around several U.S. states

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

A meningitis outbreak has been reported around several parts of the United States. The outbreak originated in Idaho. Tennessee has the highest cases according to Tennessee Health Officials.

Cquote1.svg This incident raises serious concerns about the scope of the practice of pharmacy compounding in the United States and the current patchwork of federal and state laws. Cquote2.svg

—(D) Representative Henry A. Waxman

Deaths have occured in Tennessee, Maryland, Michigan, Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina.

The New England Compounding Center, a Massachusetts based pharmacy manufactured the meningitis injections recalled it last week. The injection was a type of steroid called methylprednisolone acetate. The injections can be recalled that may have been received on May 21. 23 states may have had shipments of the meningitis injections.

Cquote1.svg But we want to emphasize that we don’t know what the longest will be, adding that patients who received injections of the recalled drug should stay attuned to the subtle symptoms for months. Cquote2.svg

—(CDC) Dr. Benjamin Park

On Tuesday Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that federal authorities reported 11 deaths and 119 persons becoming ill. 13,000 people may have been affected by this outbreak.

Democratic Representative of Massachusetts, Edward J. Markey represents the district of the manufactured meningitis said: “Would introduce legislation requiring certain pharmacies that send products across state lines to register with the F.D.A. Currently, states oversee compounding pharmacies.”



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