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Category Archives: Genetic Medicine

Immunity and our DNA: Why women are the stronger sex – The Age

The Better Half: On the Genetic Superiority of Women is by Dr Sharon Moalem (male); a neuroscientist and evolutionary biologist. Its a fascinating, unexpected and thought-provoking argument that the simple fact of having two X chromosomes, instead of one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, is the secret to womens underappreciated success in the game of life.

Dr Sharon Moalem is a science author.

A quick refresher on chromosomes: among the 23 pairs of chromosomes X-shaped twists of DNA that are the encyclopaedia of us found in every human cell, are two sex chromosomes. In genetic females, these two sex chromosomes are both an X chromosome. In genetic males, one is an X chromosome and one is a Y chromosome.

We inherit one sex chromosome from our father and one from our mother; genetic females inherit one X sex chromosome from each parent, and genetic males inherit an X sex chromosome from the mother, and a Y sex chromosome from their father.

The X chromosome is the genetic powerhouse of the sex chromosomes, containing more than 1000 genes that orchestrate a huge number of vital cellular processes. In contrast, the Y chromosome is a stunted thing that only carries about 70 genes, most of which are involved in the production of sperm.

In genetic females, only one of their two X chromosomes is needed, so the second X chromosome is deactivated or silenced when that person is merely a bundle of cells in the uterus. The silenced X chromosome gets condensed down into a bit of cellular debris called a Barr body.

For a long time, that second, silenced X chromosome was assumed to be dead. But it turns out that second X chromosome in the cells of genetic females is actually a genetic back-up plan, helping the cell and the person to survive by throwing a genetic lifeline when things get tough. Far from being inert, about 23 per cent of those thousand or so genes on the silenced X chromosome are still active.

Dr Sharon Moalem on women having an extra X chromosome: Its like having two toolboxes. One toolbox may have a broken hammer, so you use the hammer from the second box."Credit:Getty Images

Moalem argues that this back-up set of genes gives women a significant survival advantage, as evidenced by the fact that women consistently outlive men, even in times of hardship.

Having the use of two X chromosomes makes females more genetically diverse, and the ability to rely on that diverse genetic knowledge is why females always come out on top, he writes.

This advantage is particularly evident with the immune system. Moalem recalls his time tending to HIV-positive children at an orphanage in Bangkok, and his observation that the HIV-positive boys were consistently more likely to get sick with opportunistic infections than the HIV-positive girls.

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He goes on to note that HIV-positive men are also more likely than HIV-positive women to develop tuberculosis and pneumonia, while HIV-positive women tend to have higher immune-cell counts a sign of immunological strength in the early stages of HIV infection than men do.

The X chromosome carries a large number of genes involved in immune system functioning. Moalem argues that because women have two copies of the X chromosome, they are able to produce a more diverse and effective population of immune cells than if they relied on the immune genes of only one X chromosome, as men do.

But there is a price for that more aggressive immune response; sometimes it goes overboard and starts overreacting to benign things, such as our own cells. This is the phenomenon of autoimmunity, and it disproportionally affects women.

If a microbe is the wolf, and its dressing up like Grandma, better trying to kill Grandma every once in a while than to risk being fooled by a wolf dressed like Grandma, he explains.

Having two X chromosomes also offers an unparalleled advantage if it happens that a gene on one of those chromosomes is dangerously mutated.

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Say you inherit a malfunctioning gene on the X chromosome from your mother that might be associated with developmental problems. If you also have inherited an X chromosome from your father that carries a functional copy of that gene, you have a back-up, an understudy, for that faulty gene. But if you inherit a Y chromosome from your father, youre stuck with the faulty one.

This is why so-called X-linked intellectual disabilities almost entirely affect genetic males; more than 100 genes associated with intellectual disabilities have been found on the X chromosome.

Moalem also highlights a problem that numerous female authors before him have also drawn attention to: that medical science and medicine still view women as being biologically the same as men. That persistent ignorance one might even call it wilful denialism has had some devastating consequences.

Women with autoimmune conditions have long had their symptoms dismissed or trivialised by the medical establishment, which was working on the assumption that these diseases were equally prevalent in men and women.

Not that that lack of understanding has slowed females down too much. As Moalem points out, theres only one way to judge the winner in the genetic battle of the sexes: The real test of ones mettle is being able to survive the challenges of life, he writes. So, who is left standing at the end of life?

Thats right. Women.

Bianca Nogrady is the editor of The Best Australian Science Writing 2019 (NewSouth).

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Immunity and our DNA: Why women are the stronger sex - The Age

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CRISPR combines with stem cell therapy to reverse diabetes in mice – New Atlas

For a few years now, scientists at Washington University have been working on techniques to turn stem cells into pancreatic beta cells as a way of addressing insulin shortages in diabetics. After some promising recent strides, the team is now reporting another exciting breakthrough, combining this technique with the CRISPR gene-editing tool to reverse the disease in mice.

The pancreas contains what are known as beta cells, which secrete insulin as a way of tempering spikes in blood-sugar levels. But in those with diabetes, these beta cells either die off or dont function as they should, which means sufferers have to rely on diet and or regular insulin injections to manage their blood-sugar levels instead.

One of the ways scientists are working to replenish these stocks of pancreatic beta cells is by making them out of human stem cells, which are versatile, blank slate-like cells that can mature into almost any type of cell in the human body. The Washington University team has operated at the vanguard of this technology with a number of key breakthroughs, most recently with a cell implantation technique that functionally cured mice with diabetes.

The researchers are continuing to press ahead in search of new and improved methods, and this led them to the CRISPR gene-editing system, which itself has shown real promise as a tool to treat diabetes. The hope was that CRISPR could be used to correct genetic defects leading to diabetes, combining with the stem cell therapy to produce even more effective results.

As a proof of concept, the scientists took skin cells from a patient with a rare genetic type of diabetes called Wolfram syndrome, which develops during childhood and typically involves multiple insulin injections each day. These skin cells were converted into induced pluripotent stem cells, which were in turn converted into insulin-secreting beta cells. But as an additional step, CRISPR was used to correct a genetic mutation that causes Wolfram syndrome.

These edited beta cells were then pitted against non-edited beta cells from the same batch in test tube experiments and in mice with a severe type of diabetes. The edited cells proved more efficient at secreting insulin and when implanted under the skin in mice, reportedly caused the diabetes to quickly disappear. The rodents that received the unedited beta cells remained diabetic.

This is the first time CRISPR has been used to fix a patients diabetes-causing genetic defect and successfully reverse diabetes, said co-senior investigator Jeffrey R. Millman. For this study, we used cells from a patient with Wolfram syndrome because, conceptually, we knew it would be easier to correct a defect caused by a single gene. But we see this as a stepping stone toward applying gene therapy to a broader population of patients with diabetes.

The researchers are now continuing to work on improving the beta cell production technique, which in the future could involve cells taken form the blood or even urine, rather than the skin. They believe that further down the track this therapy could prove useful in treating both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, by correcting mutations that arise from genetic and environmental factors, and possibly be used to treat other conditions, as well.

We basically were able to use these cells to cure the problem, making normal beta cells by correcting this mutation, said co-senior investigator Fumihiko Urano. Its a proof of concept demonstrating that correcting gene defects that cause or contribute to diabetes in this case, in the Wolfram syndrome gene we can make beta cells that more effectively control blood sugar. Its also possible that by correcting the genetic defects in these cells, we may correct other problems Wolfram syndrome patients experience, such as visual impairment and neurodegeneration.

The research was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Source: Washington University

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CRISPR combines with stem cell therapy to reverse diabetes in mice - New Atlas

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Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health Holds Webinar With Diaspora on COVID-19 Response at Tadias Magazine – Tadias Magazine

Ethiopia pardons more than 4,000 prisoners to help prevent coronavirus spread

Germany to start first coronavirus vaccine trial

By DW

German Health Minister Jens Spahn has announced the first clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine. The Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the regulatory authority which helps develop and authorizes vaccines in Germany, has given the go-ahead for the first clinical trial of BNT162b1, a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It was developed by cancer researcher and immunologist Ugur Sahin and his team at pharmaceutical company BioNTech, and is based on their prior research into cancer immunology. Sahin previously taught at the University of Mainz before becoming the CEO of BioNTech. In a joint conference call on Wednesday with researchers from the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Sahin said BNT162b1 constitutes a so-called RNA vaccine. He explained that innocuous genetic information of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is transferred into human cells with the help of lipid nanoparticles, a non-viral gene delivery system. The cells then transform this genetic information into a protein, which should stimulate the bodys immune reaction to the novel coronavrius.

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Webinar on COVID-19 and Mental Health: Interview with Dr. Seble Frehywot

By Liben Eabisa | TADIAS

Dr. Seble Frehywot, an Associate Professor of Global Health & Health Policy at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and her colleague Dr. Yianna Vovides from Georgetown University will host an online forum next week on April 30th focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on mental health. Dr. Seble who is also the Director of Global Health Equity On-Line Learning at George Washington University told Tadias that the virtual conference titled Peoples Webinar: Addressing COVID-19 By Addressing Mental Health is open to the public and available for viewing worldwide. Read more

CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating

By The Washington Post

Even as states move ahead with plans to reopen their economies, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday that a second wave of the novel coronavirus will be far more dire because it is likely to coincide with the start of flu season. Theres a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through, CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview with The Washington Post. And when Ive said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they dont understand what I meanWere going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time, he said. Having two simultaneous respiratory outbreaks would put unimaginable strain on the health-care system, he said. The first wave of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has already killed more than 42,000 people across the country. It has overwhelmed hospitals and revealed gaping shortages in test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for health-care workers.

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Americans at World Health Organization transmitted real-time information about coronavirus to Trump administration

By The Washington Post

More than a dozen U.S. researchers, physicians and public health experts, many of them from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were working full time at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organization as the novel coronavirus emerged late last year and transmitted real-time information about its discovery and spread in China to the Trump administration, according to U.S. and international officials. A number of CDC staff members are regularly detailed to work at the WHO in Geneva as part of a rotation that has operated for years. Senior Trump-appointed health officials also consulted regularly at the highest levels with the WHO as the crisis unfolded, the officials said. The presence of so many U.S. officials undercuts President Trumps assertion that the WHOs failure to communicate the extent of the threat, born of a desire to protect China, is largely responsible for the rapid spread of the virus in the United States. Read more

In Ethiopia, Dire Dawa Emerges as Newest Coronavirus Hot Spot

By Africa News

The case count as of April 20 had reached 111 according to health minister Lia Tadesses update for today. Ethiopia crossed the 100 mark over the weekend. All three cases recorded over the last 24-hours were recorded in the chartered city of Dire Dawa with patients between the ages of 11 18. Two of them had travel history from Djibouti. Till date, Ethiopia has 90 patients in treatment centers. The death toll is still at three with 16 recoveries. A patient is in intensive care. Read more

COVID-19: Interview with Dr. Tsion Firew, an Ethiopian Doctor on the Frontline in NYC

Dr. Tsion Firew is Doctor of Emergency Medicine and Assistant Professor at Columbia University. She is also Special Advisor to the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia. (Courtesy photo)

By Liben Eabisa

In New York City, which has now become the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, working as a medical professional means literally going to a war zone, says physician Tsion Firew, a Doctor of Emergency Medicine and Assistant Professor at Columbia University, who has just recovered from COVID-19 and returned to work a few days ago. Indeed the statistics coming out of New York are simply shocking with the state recording a sharp increase in death toll this months surpassing 10,000 and growing. According to The New York Times: The numbers brought into clearer focus the staggering toll the virus has already taken on the largest city in the United States, where deserted streets are haunted by the near-constant howl of ambulance sirens. Far more people have died in New York City, on a per-capita basis, than in Italy the hardest-hit country in Europe. At the heart of the solution both in the U.S. and around the world is more testing and adhering to social distancing rules until such time as a proper treatment and vaccine is discovered, says Dr. Tsion, who is also a Special Advisor to the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia. Dr. Tsion adds that at this moment we all as humanity have one enemy: the virus. And whats going to win the fight is solidarity. Listen to the interview

Ethiopia Opens Aid Transport Hub to Fight Covid-19

By AFP

Ethiopia and the United Nations on Tuesday opened a humanitarian transport hub at Addis Ababa airport to move supplies and aid workers across Africa to fight coronavirus. The arrangement, which relies on cargo services provided by Ethiopian Airlines, could also partially offset heavy losses Africas largest carrier is sustaining because of the pandemic. An initial shipment of 3 000 cubic metres of supplies most of it personal protective equipment for health workers will be distributed within the next week, said Steven Were Omamo, Ethiopia country director for the World Food Programme (WFP). This is a really important platform in the response to Covid-19, because what it does is it allows us to move with speed and efficiency to respond to the needs as they are unfolding, Omamo said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus. The Addis gateway is one of eight global humanitarian hubs set up to facilitate movement of aid to fight Covid-19, according to WFP.

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Covid-19: Ethiopia to buy life insurance for health workers

By TESFA-ALEM TEKLE | AFP

The Ethiopian government is due to buy life insurance for health professionals in direct contact with Covid-19 patients. Health minister Lia Tadesse said on Tuesday that the government last week reached an agreement with the Ethiopian Insurance Corporation but did not disclose the value of the cover. The two sides are expected to sign an agreement this week to effect the insurance grant. According to the ministry, the life insurance grant is aimed at encouraging health experts who are the most vulnerable to the deadly coronavirus. Members of the Rapid Response Team will also benefit.

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U.N. says Saudi deportations of Ethiopian migrants risks spreading coronavirus

By Reuters

The United Nations said on Monday that deportations of illegal migrant workers by Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia risked spreading the coronavirus and it urged Riyadh to suspend the practice for the time being.

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Ethiopias capital launches door-to-door Covid-19 screening

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By TESFA-ALEM TEKLE | AFP

Ethiopias capital, Addis Ababa is due to begin a door-to-door mass Covid-19 screening across the city, Addis Ababa city administration has announced. City deputy Mayor, Takele Uma, on Saturday told local journalists that the mass screening and testing programme will be started Monday (April 13) first in districts which are identified as potentially most vulnerable to the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus. The aggressive city-wide screening measure intends to identify Covid-19 infected patients and thereby to arrest a potential virus spread within communities. He said, the mass screening will eventually be carried out in all 117 districts, locally known as woredas, of the city, which is home to an estimated 7 million inhabitants. According to the Mayor, the door-to-door mass Covid-19 screening will be conducted by more than 1,200 retired health professionals, who responded to governments call on the retired to join the national fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

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Worldwide deaths from the coronavirus hit 100,000

By The Associated Press

The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus has hit 100,000, according to the running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. The sad milestone comes as Christians around the globe mark a Good Friday unlike any other in front of computer screens instead of in church pews. Meanwhile, some countries are tiptoeing toward reopening segments of their battered economies. Public health officials are warning people against violating the social distancing rules over Easter and allowing the virus to flare up again. Authorities are using roadblocks and other means to discourage travel.

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Ethiopia COVID-19 Response Team: Interview with Mike Endale

By Liben Eabisa | TADIAS

A network of technology professionals from the Ethiopian Diaspora known as the Ethiopia COVID-19 Response Team has been assisting the Ethiopian Ministry of Health since the nations first Coronavirus case was confirmed on March 13th. The COVID-19 Response Team has since grown into an army of more than a thousand volunteers. Mike Endale, a software developer based in Washington, D.C., is the main person behind the launch of this project. Read more

Ethiopia eyes replicating Chinas successes in applying traditional medicine to contain COVID-19

By CGTN Africa

The Ethiopian government on Thursday expressed its keen interest to replicate Chinas positive experience in terms of effectively applying traditional Chinese medicine to successfully contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the East African country.

This came after high-level officials from the Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MoIT) as well as the Ethiopian Ministry of Health (MoH) held a video conference with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners and researchers on ways of applying the TCM therapy towards controlling the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the country, the MoIT disclosed in a statement issued on Thursday.

China, in particular, has agreed to provide to Ethiopia the two types of Chinese traditional medicines that the country applied to successfully treat the first two stages of the novel coronavirus, a statement from the Ethiopian Ministry of Innovation and Technology read.

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WHO Director Slams Racist Comments About COVID-19 Vaccine Testing

The Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has angrily condemned recent comments made by scientists suggesting that a vaccine for COVID-19 should be tested in Africa as racist and a hangover from the colonial mentality. (Photo: WHO)

By BBC

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has condemned as racist the comments by two French doctors who suggested a vaccine for the coronavirus could be tested in Africa.

Africa cant and wont be a testing ground for any vaccine, said Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The doctors remarks during a TV debate sparked outrage, and they were accused of treating Africans like human guinea pigs.

One of them later issued an apology.

When asked about the doctors suggestion during the WHOs coronavirus briefing, Dr Tedros became visibly angry, calling it a hangover from the colonial mentality.

It was a disgrace, appalling, to hear during the 21st Century, to hear from scientists, that kind of remark. We condemn this in the strongest terms possible, and we assure you that this will not happen, he said.

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Ethiopia declares state of emergency to curb spread of COVID-19

By Reuters

Ethiopias prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in the country to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus, his office said on Twitter. Considering the gravity of the #COVID19, the government of Ethiopia has enacted a State of Emergency, Abiys office said.

Ethiopia virus cases hit 52, 9-month-old baby infected

By TESFA-ALEM TEKLE | AFP

Ethiopia on Tuesday reported eight new Covid-19 cases, the highest number recorded so far in one day since the country confirmed its first virus case on March 12. Among the new patients that tested positive for the virus were a 9-month-old infant and his mother who had travelled to Dubai recently. During the past 24 hours, we have done laboratory tests for a total of 264 people and eight out of them have been diagnosed with coronavirus, raising the total confirmed number of Covid-19 patients in Ethiopia to 52, said Health Minister Dr Lia Tadese. According to the Minister, seven of the newly confirmed patients had travel histories to various countries. They have been under forced-quarantine in different designated hotels in the capital, Addis Ababa. Five of the new patients including the 9-month-old baby and the mother came from Dubai while the two others came from Thailand and the United Kingdom, she said

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The coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate

By The Washington Post

As the novel coronavirus sweeps across the United States, it appears to be infecting and killing black Americans at a disproportionately high rate, according to a Washington Post analysis of early data from jurisdictions across the country. The emerging stark racial disparity led the surgeon general Tuesday to acknowledge in personal terms the increased risk for African Americans amid growing demands that public-health officials release more data on the race of those who are sick, hospitalized and dying of a contagion that has killed more than 12,000 people in the United States. A Post analysis of what data is available and census demographics shows that counties that are majority-black have three times the rate of infections and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority.

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In China, Wuhans lockdown officially ends after 11 weeks

After 11 weeks or 76 days Wuhans lockdown is officially over. On Wednesday, Chinese authorities allowed residents to travel in and out of the besieged city where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported in December. Many remnants of the months-long lockdown, however, remain. Wuhans 11 million residents will be able to leave only after receiving official authorization that they are healthy and havent recently been in contact with a coronavirus patient. To do so, the Chinese government is making use of its mandatory smartphone application that, along with other government surveillance, tracks the movement and health status of every person.

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U.S. hospitals facing severe shortages of equipment and staff, watchdog says

By The Washington Post

As the official U.S. death toll approached 10,000, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams warned that this will be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans lives.

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Ethio-American Tech Company PhantomALERT Offers Free App to Track & Map COVID-19 Outbreak

By Tadias Staff

PhantomALERT, a Washington D.C.-based technology company announced, that its offering a free application service to track, report and map COVID-19 outbreak hotspots in real time. In a recent letter to the DC government as well as the Ethiopian Embassy in the U.S. the Ethiopian-American owned business, which was launched in 2007, explained that over the past few days, they have redesigned their application to be a dedicated coronavirus mapping, reporting and tracking application. The letter to the Ethiopian Embassy, shared with Tadias, noted that PhantomALERTs technology will enable the Ethiopian government (and all other countries across the world) to locate symptomatic patients, provide medical assistance and alert communities of hotspots for the purpose of slowing down the spread of the Coronavirus.

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2nd COVID-19 death confirmed in Ethiopia

By Dr. Lia Tadesse (Minister, Ministry of Health, Ethiopia)

It is with great sadness that I announce the second death of a patient from #COVID19 in Ethiopia. The patient was admitted on April 2nd and was under strict medical follow up in the Intensive Care Unit. My sincere condolences to the family and loved ones.

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The Next Coronavirus Test Will Tell You If You Are Now Immune. And Its Fast.

People line up in their cars at the COVID-19 testing area at Roseland Community Hospital on April 3, 2020, in Chicago. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)

By Chicago Tribune

A new, different type of coronavirus test is coming that will help significantly in the fight to quell the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and scientists say. The first so-called serology test, which detects antibodies to the virus rather than the virus itself, was given emergency approval Thursday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And several more are nearly ready, said Dr. Elizabeth McNally, director of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Center for Genetic Medicine.

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Your Safety is Our Priority: How Ethiopian Airlines is Navigating the Global Virus Crisis

By Tadias Staff

Lately Ethiopian Airlines has been busy delivering much-needed medical supplies across Africa and emerging at the forefront of the continents fight against the coronavirus pandemic even as it has suspended most of its international passenger flights.

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Ethiopia races to bolster ventilator stockpile for coronavirus fight

By AFP

Ethiopias government like others in Africa is confronting a stark ventilator shortage that could hobble its COVID-19 response. In a country of more than 100 million people, just 54 ventilators out of around 450 total had been set aside for COVID-19 patients as of this week, said Yakob Seman, director general of medical services at the health ministry.

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Ethiopia's Ministry of Health Holds Webinar With Diaspora on COVID-19 Response at Tadias Magazine - Tadias Magazine

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Aleksandar Rajkovic, MD, PhD, FACMG Is Elected to the ACMG Foundation for Genetic and Genomic Medicine Board of Directors – Herald-Mail Media

BETHESDA, Md., April 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Aleksandar Rajkovic, MD, PhD, FACMG has been elected to the board of directors of the ACMG Foundation for Genetic and Genomic Medicine. The ACMG Foundationis a national nonprofit foundation dedicated to facilitating the integration of genetics and genomics into medical practice. The board members are active participants, serving as advocates for the ACMG Foundation and for advancing its policies and programs. Dr. Rajkovic was elected to a two-year term starting immediately.

ACMG Foundation President Bruce R. Korf, MD, PhD, FACMG said, "We are delighted that Dr. Rajkovic has joined the ACMG Foundation Board of Directors. He brings a wealth of expertise in clinical genetics and genomics, as well as experience in organizing genomic medicine services in a large academic health system."

Dr. Rajkovic is a professor of pathology and obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). He is the UCSF Chief Genomics Officer and Medical Director and Chief of the Center for Genetic and Genomic Medicine (CGGM) that organizes, coordinates and oversees clinical genetics and genomics services across the entire UCSF Health system. He also serves as the Director of the Genomic Medicine Initiative there. Dr. Rajkovic earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Johns Hopkins University and his MD/PhD in Medicine and Molecular Biology from Case Western Reserve University. He is board certified in both clinical genetics and genomics and obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Rajkovic previously acted as medical director for the clinical genomics laboratories at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, served as medical director for the genetic counseling and diagnostic services at Magee and as program director of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine residency/fellowship in medical genetics. He was co-chair of the NIH Fragile X-Associated Primary Ovarian Insufficiency Meeting and served on the NIH Genetics Health and Disease Panel. He was a founding member of Doctors for Change, Houston, Texas, an organization dedicated to improving access to healthcare for all. He has authored 129 peer-reviewed publications and has been a frequent invited presenter at prominent medical meetings.

Upon being elected to the ACMG Foundation Board of Directors, Dr. Rajkovic said, "I am looking forward to working with other directors in advancing the ACMGF mission."

A complete roster of the ACMG Foundation board can be found at http://www.acmgfoundation.org.

About the ACMG Foundation for Genetic and Genomic Medicine

The ACMG Foundation for Genetic and Genomic Medicine, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is a community of supporters and contributors who understand the importance of medical genetics and genomics in healthcare. Established in 1992, the ACMG Foundation supports the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) mission to "translate genes into health." Through its work, the ACMG Foundation fosters charitable giving, promotes training opportunities to attract future medical geneticists and genetic counselors to the field, shares information about medical genetics and genomics, and sponsors important research. To learn more and support the ACMG Foundation mission to create "Better Health through Genetics" visit acmgfoundation.org.

Kathy Moran, MBAkmoran@acmg.net

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Aleksandar Rajkovic, MD, PhD, FACMG Is Elected to the ACMG Foundation for Genetic and Genomic Medicine Board of Directors - Herald-Mail Media

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Genetic predisposition to smoking in relation to 14 cardiovascular diseases. – Physician’s Weekly

The aim of this study was to use Mendelian randomization (MR) to determine the causality of the association between smoking and 14 different cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).Our primary genetic instrument comprised 361 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with smoking initiation (ever smoked regularly) at genome-wide significance. Data on the associations between the SNPs and 14 CVDs were obtained from the UK Biobank study (N=367643 individuals), CARDIoGRAMplusC4D consortium (N=184305 individuals), Atrial Fibrillation Consortium (2017 dataset; N=154432 individuals), and Million Veteran Program (MVP; N=190266 individuals). The main analyses were conducted using the random-effects inverse-variance weighted method and complemented with multivariable MR analyses and the weighted median and MR-Egger approaches. Genetic predisposition to smoking initiation was most strongly and consistently associated with higher odds of coronary artery disease, heart failure, abdominal aortic aneurysm, ischaemic stroke, transient ischaemic attack, peripheral arterial disease, and arterial hypertension. Genetic predisposition to smoking initiation was additionally associated with higher odds of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in the UK Biobank but not with venous thromboembolism in the MVP. There was limited evidence of causal associations of smoking initiation with atrial fibrillation, aortic valve stenosis, thoracic aortic aneurysm, and intracerebral and subarachnoid haemorrhage.This MR study supports a causal association between smoking and a broad range of CVDs, in particular, coronary artery disease, heart failure, abdominal aortic aneurysm, ischaemic stroke, transient ischaemic attack, peripheral arterial disease, and arterial hypertension. The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology.

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Through tech, USC museums and galleries keep people connected to art – USC News

From the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the 9/11 attacks and civil unrest in Los Angeles, the USC Fisher Museum of Art managed to stay open.

Not this time. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum closed its doors on March 14 for the first time in its more than 80-year history.

This decision was not made lightly, said Selma Holo, executive director of USC Museums and Galleries. This is in step with USCs current COVID-19 response and with the evolving national health guidelines designed to slow potential transmission of the coronavirus.

Once the doors were closed, though, Holo had an idea.

Inspired by the art worlds move to social media to promote digital art content, Holo and her team introduced the hashtag #MyMuseumAtHome to encourage staff to share privately owned art from their homes.

The initial idea was to get a peek into the art that museum professionals choose to surround themselves with at home, Holo said. Then we thought it would be fun not just to see the artwork belonging to museum staff but everyones at-home collections.

In addition, Holo added, posting art online is a tremendous opportunity to call attention to makers and artists who are likely suffering greatly due to the closing of museums and art venues in Los Angeles and around the world.

It is a recognition that we are in a unique moment. Not only in regard to the current crisis, but a moment when technology photography, video, web platforms and social media allows museums to continue to the serve their audiences and extended online audiences exponentially larger than those who might walk in the doors of any single museum, she said.

Just because we cant be standing in front of the art doesnt mean that we cant continue to enjoy it and perhaps even see it in new ways, said Holo, who is also a professor of art history at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, where she teaches museum studies.

When the museums eventually open again, even the savviest Trojan may be surprised to learn that USC is the home of four museums and 11 art galleries. Holo said revealing those hidden treasures to the community is job No. 1.

USC is a polyphonic constellation of museums and galleries that have relevant, dynamic and empowering exhibitions, she said. As executive director of USC Museums and Galleries, it is my goal to explore what each of our museums and galleries is doing and to share that collective knowledge among all of us in an effort to remain a major cultural force not only in Los Angeles but worldwide.

Selma Holo said that one reason to post art online is to call attention to makers and artists who are likely suffering greatly during the closing of art museums and art venues around the world. (Photo/Courtesy of Selma Holo)

Holo added that USC is in a notable position: Two of its museums the USC Fisher Museum of Art and the USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena are accredited by the prestigious American Alliance of Museums. Out of some 55,000 museums worldwide, only 1,080 museums are accredited by the alliance.

There is also the importance of location. USC sits in the heart of L.A.s museum alley in Exposition Park. In fact, the USC Fisher Museum of Art was on museum alley before one even existed. The museum established in 1939 by Elizabeth Homes Fisher as the USC Fisher Gallery was the first local museum dedicated exclusively to art.

The L.A. art world doesnt have anything else like that, Holo said. For 80-plus years, we have been a leading stable and credible artistic presence not only at USC but in the city of Los Angeles.

The USC Pacific Asia Museum also offers its own unique history, with art dating back 4,000 years to Chinas Ming Dynasty. Its director, Bethany Montagano, said visitors can also expect a focus on the future.

Were definitely looking toward contemporary art exhibitions that will resonate with our current social issues, Montagano said. We want to be a place that supports cutting-edge dynamic contemporary art exhibitions that will launch new artists careers.

In addition, Holo believes USCs University Park Campus should be seen as a mecca for art enthusiasts. USC is certainly a destination for art, with a staggering number of art and cultural venues to visit, she said.

While many USC museums and galleries are known to the public, there are a select few that some visitors might not know exist but are worth exploring once the shelter-in-place policy is lifted and the university reopens.

The Sophie Davis Gallery is at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

The Sophie Davis Gallery

The city of Los Angeles has long been labeled a youth-obsessed culture, but thats not the case at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. In fact, inside the schools Sophie Davis Art Gallery, aging is an art form. The gallery celebrates older artists and explores topics related to aging across the lifespan through the lens of creativity.

This gallery supports the idea of art transcending age, Holo said. In essence, an artist might physically age but his or her vision of art is eternally vital, robust and ageless.

The displays in the Viterbi Museum are not necessarily what one might expect in a museum. (Photo/Chandrea Miller)

The Viterbi Museum

Holo was also quick to point out that USCs museums do not fit a particular mold as seen in the display at the Viterbi Museum, located at the USC Viterbi School of Engineerings Tutor Hall. The gallery displays revolutionary digital and electric devices that the schools namesake, Andrew Viterbi, pioneered equipment that connects cellphone technology to the internet.

At this gallery, expect the unexpected, Holo said.

LOVE by Robert Indiana is displayed at the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC in West L.A. (Photo/Courtesy of the Ellison Institute)

Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC

Holo also calls attention to art as creating a positive change in the world, whether it be to inspire, calm, breed creativity or push us to think differently.

Thats a sentiment shared at the gallery space at the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC in West L.A., where the goal is to foster collaborative insights into cancer and health where art plays a pivotal role in the experience that patients and visitors have when they step foot inside.

We believe along with the Ellison Institute that art can be healing and inspiring, Holo said. The LOVE sculpture sits in the heart of the building and is a constant reminder of what drives the researchers, clinicians, patients and staff every day.

The video wall and Annenberg Art Gallery

The photographic journey of Wang Wenlan is on display in the Annenberg Art Gallery. (Photo/Courtesy of Wang Wenlan)

Finally, Holo notes that a museum that doesnt generate new knowledge is a dead museum. She notes the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalisms knowledge-driven video wall in the lobby of Wallis Annenberg Hall.

Right when you walk in, there is a three-story floating video screen, Holo said. Its literally a kind of contemporary art in motion, transferring knowledge at lightning speed.

In addition, there is the schools more traditional Annenberg Art Gallery that features a variety of art from paintings and sculptures to famous international photographers.

Together we can have a greater cultural impact than any one of our galleries or museums could do singularly, Holo said. My message is merely to say, Were all here for our USC community and Los Angeles neighbors, and were going to make your lives better through the transformative power of art and the evidence of our exciting material culture located at every corner of our campus.

Holo noted that the closure of USCs museum and galleries is temporary. When the doors reopen, she feels its vital that visitors experience the art in person.

The most enduring thing about museums is that they allow us to experience art in a situation that is essentially social. That communal experience can be exhilarating or consoling, confirming or challenging, she said. Museums provide us with physical, authentic portals into the great creativity of humanity that can only be hinted at online.

More stories about: Art History, COVID-19, Fine Arts, Museums

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