By Rebecca AyerUniversity of GeorgiaAthens, Ga. – Researchers at the University of Georgia have beenawarded a $425,598 subcontract to develop a human embryonicstem-cell–derived test for screening drugs capable of treatingspinal muscular atrophy, the No. 1 genetic killer of childrenunder 2 years old.The subcontract was awarded through the Spinal Muscular AtrophyProject to speed up the process of developing safe and effectivetreatment of SMA.The SMA Project is a model translation program established by theNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at theNational Institutes of Health. Its goal is to identify andcomplete preclinical research and develop candidate therapeuticsfor treating SMA by late 2007.The UGA team hopes to have the first assay ready in one year.”All the talk surrounding stem cell research has focused on celltherapy,” said Steven Stice, one of UGA’s Georgia ResearchAlliance Eminent Scholars and the project’s principalinvestigator.”We hope this will be the first use of human embryonic stem cellsin human medicine,” Stice said. “Our goal is to have an immediateimpact on health issues through better ways of identifyingpromising drug therapies for diseases like SMA.”Spinal muscular atrophy is a group of inherited and often fataldiseases that destroys the nerves necessary for voluntary musclemovement, such as crawling, walking, head and neck control andeven swallowing.According to the NIH, one in every 40 people is a genetic carrierof the disease. One in 6,000 babies is born with it. And of thechildren diagnosed before age 2, half will die before theirsecond birthday.SMA is caused by a defect in the survival motor neuron gene 1(SMN1), which produces a protein necessary for all of the body’smotor neurons to develop and function.In people with SMA, limited amounts of SMN protein are providedby a second SMN gene (SMN2) and allow for the correct functioningof most of the body’s cells.However, the reduced protein levels produced by SMN2 aren’tenough to keep the neurons in the spinal cord from degenerating.Transgenic mouse models developed to study SMN function have beeninformative, Stice said. However, typical model systems, such asthe mouse, possess only one SMN gene. And research has found thatthe initial survival of human SMA patients depends on proteinproduced by the SMN2 gene, found only in humans.”The unique sensitivity of spinal motor neurons and configurationof SMN genes in humans make it essential for us to create abetter model to study the disease,” Stice said. “And the bestmodel would be a human one.”Stice and his group will establish two different, butcomplementary, human motor neuron systems using mixed motorneuron cultures derived using NIH-approved embryonic stem celllines owned and distributed by BresaGen, a private researchcompany in Athens.The cell-culture–based systems will be designed to test candidatedrugs’ ability to increase SMN protein levels.”We have good candidate drugs from studies in other systems,”said Michael Terns, associate professor of biochemistry andmolecular biology at UGA. “In addition, there are libraries ofcompounds available for testing to see if protein concentrationsgo up without having to know the mechanism behind it.”Michael and Rebecca Terns, both advisors on the SMA Projectcontract, have been studying the molecular functions of SMN1since their laboratory first cloned the gene in 1996.The Terns recently received a $300,000 supplement to theirexisting grant from the NIH to specifically examine the functionof SMN in motor neurons.”What our lab is trying to understand is why only spinal motorneurons are affected by a mutation in SMN when the gene isinvolved in mechanisms required for all cell functioning,” Ternssaid.(Rebecca Ayer is an information specialist with the Universityof Georgia Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute.)
September 1, 2000 Regular News Russomanno speaks to new law students at Nova and Florida Russomanno speaks to new law students at Nova and Florida The practice of law is a privilege and a good lawyer never shrinks from his or her professional responsibility to work to earn the trust of clients, adversaries, and the courts, Bar President Herman Russomanno recently told first year law students at the University of Florida and Nova Southeastern University. Addressing the law school orientation programs at Nova on August 16 and UF the following day, Russomanno reminded the students that lawyers are members of a noble profession. “It is a profession that offers enormous challenges for us and the clients we serve,” Russomanno said. “I can speak for my colleagues in saying we are as passionate as ever about the law and, with your help as future lawyers, we will lift the spirit of our profession in this new century.” Also welcoming students to law school at Nova were former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald Kogan and Dean Joseph Harbaugh. Joining Russomanno in Gainesville were Justice Harry Lee Anstead, John Berry, director of UF’s Center for Professionalism, and Kathryn Ressel, executive director of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. “As a lawyer, you are to always provide satisfactory evidence of good moral character,” Russomanno said. “In this day and age, more than ever before, the ethical conduct of lawyers is under a microscope — not just by the media or The Florida Bar — but by all members of the public.” Russomanno asked the students to fully consider how they will conduct themselves as lawyers and to actively talk with each other and with their professors about professionalism. “As lawyers, you must adhere to the core values of the legal profession — which direct lawyers to serve the public interest, exercise independent judgment, protect client confidences and provide conflict-free representation,” he said. Russomanno also said the central theme of any true profession is ministry to the people and in the legal profession, that means ministry to your clients. “In law school, you will be provided with training to serve the poor and disadvantaged,” Russomanno said. “In law, I’m sure you all know, we use the term pro bono, derived from the Latin phrase pro bono publico — meaning for the good of the public.” The legal profession is the only profession that has a tradition of encouraging and fostering such participation of its members for the public good, Russomanno said. Attorneys who dedicate their services for the good of the public are true stewards of the legal profession. “I encourage you to begin now to consider how you will join their ranks,” Russomanno said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. launched airstrikes Thursday in Iraq, targeting the Iranian-backed Shia militia members believed responsible for the rocket attack that killed and wounded American and British troops at a base north of Baghdad, the Pentagon said.U.S. officials said multiple strikes by U.S. fighter jets hit five locations and mainly targeted Kataib Hezbollah weapons facilities inside Iraq. A Defense Department statement said the strikes targeted five weapons storage facilities “to significantly degrade their ability to conduct future attacks.”The strikes marked a rapid escalation in tensions with Tehran and its proxy groups in Iraq, just two months after Iran carried out a massive ballistic missile attack against American troops at a base in Iraq. They came just hours after top U.S. defense leaders threatened retaliation for the Wednesday rocket attack, making clear that they knew who did it and that the attackers would be held accountable.“The United States will not tolerate attacks against our people, our interests, or our allies,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said. “As we have demonstrated in recent months, we will take any action necessary to protect our forces in Iraq and the region.”The Pentagon statement said the facilities hit in the precision strikes were used to store weapons used to target the U.S. and coalition forces. It called the counterattack “defensive, proportional and in direct response to the threat” posed by the Iranian-backed Shia militia groups.U.S. officials said the locations of the strikes were largely around the Baghdad region. One U.S. official said there were two strikes at Jurf al-Sakher, one in Karbala, one at Al-Musayib, and one at Arab Nawar Ahmad. The official said the U.S. expected casualties would be lower than 50, and said the main effort was to hit the weapons.The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because some details about the operations had not yet been made public.An official with the paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units told The Associated Press that two Iraqi federal police personnel were killed in Jurf al-Sakher. An Iraqi military statement said the aerial “aggression” occurred at 1:15 a.m. in the areas of Jurf al-Sakher, Al-Musayib, Najaf and Alexandria on the headquarters of the Popular Mobilization Units, emergency regiments and commandos of the 9th division of the Iraqi army.Esper told reporters at the Pentagon earlier Thursday that President Donald Trump had given him the authority to take whatever action he deemed necessary.“We’re going to take this one step at a time, but we’ve got to hold the perpetrators accountable,” Esper said. “You don’t get to shoot at our bases and kill and wound Americans and get away with it.”At the White House, Trump had also hinted that a U.S. counterpunch could be coming, telling reporters, “We’ll see what the response is.” And Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters the U.S. knows ”with a high degree of certainty” who launched the attack.On Capitol Hill earlier in the day, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, told senators the deaths of U.S. and coalition troops created a “red line” for the U.S., but said he didn’t think Iran has “a good understanding of where our red line is.”Asked if any counterattack could include a strike inside Iran, Esper said, “We are focused on the group that we believe perpetrated this in Iraq.”Two U.S. troops and one British service member were killed and 14 other personnel were wounded when 18 rockets hit the base Wednesday. The U.S. military said the 107 mm Katyusha rockets were fired from a truck launcher that was found by Iraqi security forces near the base after the attack.U.S. officials have not publicly said what group they believe launched the rocket attack, but Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shia militia group, was the likely perpetrator. And the U.S. strikes, which came in the middle of the night in Iraq, targeted that group.Kataib Hezbollah was responsible for a late December rocket attack on a military base in Kirkuk that killed a U.S. contractor, prompting American military strikes in response.That in turn led to protests at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. They were followed Jan. 3 by a U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s most powerful military officer, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a leader of the Iran-backed militias in Iraq, of which Kataib Hezbollah is a member. In response to the Soleimani killing, Iran launched a massive ballistic missile attack on Jan. 8, at al-Asad air base in Iraq, that resulted in traumatic brain injuries to more than 100 American troops.McKenzie told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday morning that the killing of Soleimani and the increase in U.S. troops and assets in the region has made clear to Iran that the U.S. will defend its interests there. He said the U.S. has re-established a level of deterrence for state-on-state attacks by Iran.However, he said: “What has not been changed is their continuing desire to operate through their proxies indirectly again us. That is a far more difficult area to deter.”On Thursday, Esper and Milley said they spoke with their British counterparts about the attack, but declined to provide details.Asked why none of the rockets was intercepted, Milley said there are no systems on the base capable of defending against that type of attack.He also said the 14 injured personnel were a mix of U.S. and allied troops as well as contractors, and they will also be monitored for possible traumatic brain injury in the wake of the blasts.
Guyana has now entered into an air services agreement with New Zealand, which enables both nations to conduct international air transportation following a mutually crafted framework for operation.The agreement was signed by Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge and newly-accredited High Commissioner of New Zealand to Guyana, Anton Ojala.According to the Ministry, this agreement stems from a “joint desire” to widen the opportunities which are presented in international flights. Added to that are “the related parameters that will enhance competitive air transport services, trade, and economic growth”.Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge and High Commissioner Anton Ojala after signing the Air Services Agreement documentIt was mentioned that the countries have a long history of diplomatic ties, ever since they established relations on September 1, 1974.Last year, Guyana also signed a similar agreement with Ghana, allowing for direct flights and increased connectivity.Meanwhile, airline companies have also been signalling interest in the Guyanese flight markets, while current operators have increased the number of weekly flights to other destinations.Last December, American Airlines commenced operations in Guyana, one of its 19 destinations across South America.At that time, Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) Director General Egbert Field took the opportunity to mention that the carrier would advance Guyana’s tourism industry and increase the flight count to the North American continent. For him, bridging those gaps is essential for the country and its economy.Copa Airlines had also announced that it added another flight to its Guyana-Panama route with onward connections effective since December.With approval from the GCAA, Copa operates the additional flight on Fridays, adding to existing flights on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.Word was also circulating that Eastern Airline had applied for a chance to operate in Guyana, adding to the increased fleet which depart and arrive on a daily basis.These developments were made around the same time that Guyana stood as the host of the Air Transport Meeting, for the first time, at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.The Air Transport Meeting addressed issues such as harmonising the regional air transport regulatory framework as well as the liberalisation of air cargo through regional and global approaches.