The American Lung Association Of Michigan Encourages Detroit Residents To See Themselves Among The Many ‘Faces’ Of Influenza

In an effort to educate Detroit area residents about the importance of annual seasonal influenza vaccination the American Lung Association of Michigan is kicking-off the 2009-2010 Faces of Influenza initiative in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area by partnering with the Washtenaw Immunization Action Coalition (WIAC) to conduct two influenza panel discussions scheduled for September 28 and October 5. The meetings will address the latest flu statistics and benefits of vaccination, particularly high-risk groups.

Public health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend seasonal influenza vaccination as the first line of defense this year in protecting against the influenza virus.

The recent H1N1 outbreak is a strong reminder that influenza is not the common cold. It’s a serious respiratory illness. Each year, approximately 226,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die due to influenza-related complications.

The American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza campaign encourages local residents to see themselves and their loved ones among the many “faces” of influenza – people who fall into one or more target groups recommended for annual vaccination by the CDC.

WIAC Hosting Community Discussion Panel on Influenza

In support of the initiative, many community leaders including individuals from the Washtenaw County Health Department, and local physicians will serve as speakers at the seasonal influenza panel discussions. Additionally, Zack Yaksich, a local Detroit resident who lost his 5-year-old daughter, Alana, to complications from influenza will be in attendance to help reinforce that vaccination is the best protection available against the disease.

Since Alana’s death, Zack has joined the American Lung Association of Michigan’s Faces of Influenza program to educate others about the importance of annual influenza vaccination for the entire household and help prevent similar tragedies from striking other families.

“Parents need to know that it’s so important to get their family vaccinated against influenza every single year,” Zack Yaksich said.

Despite recommendations by health experts that more than four out of five Americans should be vaccinated against seasonal influenza annually, fewer than half actually do.

On average, between 47,500 and 190,000 Detroit area residents will suffer from seasonal influenza, yet immunization rates fall short each year.

Chances Are, We All Know “Faces” of Influenza

The Faces of Influenza campaign, which includes expanded awareness initiatives nationally and in many major cities, supports the CDC’s call for Americans to get vaccinated against seasonal influenza this and every year.

Celebrities, health officials and everyday people have joined the Faces of Influenza campaign, sharing personal stories about their experiences with the disease and encouraging influenza vaccination among recommended groups.

The Lung Association is working with other families across the country who lost loved ones to influenza. These parents, as well as others involved in the program, have joined the Faces of Influenza campaign to help families avoid the tragedies they experienced.

On a national level, Olympic Gold Medalist figure skater, “Dancing with the Stars” winner and mother Kristi Yamaguchi is the spokesperson for the Faces of Influenza campaign. Other celebrity “faces” featured include: actor Dean Cain, who played Superman on ABC’s “Lois and Clark”; Dr. Joyce Brothers, well-known psychologist and advice columnist; Joy Behar, comedian and co-host of ABC’s “The View”; and Olympic Gold Medalist Vonetta Flowers.

Faces of Influenza Awareness Activities

The Faces of Influenza initiative also includes educational materials for consumers and health care providers, as well as the national distribution of television and radio public service announcements featuring Kristi Yamaguchi and the high-risk groups recommended for seasonal influenza immunization.

About Seasonal Influenza

Seasonal influenza, along with its complications, is a serious respiratory illness. On average, 36,000 Americans die and about 226,000 people are hospitalized each year. Vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent influenza and its complications. The CDC recommends that anyone who wishes to reduce their risk of contracting influenza; children 6 months-18 years of age; adults over 50 years of age; pregnant women; and anyone with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and diabetes, receive an annual influenza immunization. The CDC also recommends annual immunization for caregivers and household contacts of these high-risk groups, such as relatives and health care providers. Vaccination typically begins in October and can continue through March. The 2009-2010 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations state that vaccination efforts should begin as soon as vaccine is available and continue through the influenza season. In most seasons, seasonal influenza virus activity peaks in February or March, so vaccination throughout the entire influenza season is beneficial and recommended.

About the Flu Clinic Locator

In addition to this new campaign, the Lung Association continues to offer its Flu Clinic Locator as a public service. The Flu Clinic Locator is the largest online directory of public seasonal influenza vaccination clinics. By typing in their 5-digit ZIP code, site visitors can receive a list of immunization clinics in their area. Site visitors may also schedule appointment reminders and sign up to receive seasonal influenza news.

About the American Lung Association

Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives, improve lung health and prevent lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy.

Source: American Lung Association of Michigan

Phadia Joins Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics In Calling For National Institutes of Health Guidelines-Level Care For All People With Ast

Phadia US Inc, the world leader in in vitro allergy diagnostics and manufacturer of ImmunoCAP Specific IgE blood testing, announced its support of Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) in calling for national asthma guidelines-level care for all people with asthma.

Most recently updated in 2007 by the National Institutes of Health, National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) The Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma is a federally-funded, evidence-based set of standards proven to reduce needless suffering and death as well as costs associated with asthma.

While the NAEPP guidelines stress the importance of evaluating the role of allergens in patients with persistent asthma, many Americans – especially those served by federally funded programs such as Medicare and Medicaid – do not receive this level of care. Today during Asthma Awareness Day in Washington, D.C., Phadia joins AANMA, the leading patient advocacy group for people with allergy, asthma and related conditions, in calling for NAEPP-level care for all asthma patients.

Michael Land, president of Phadia US Inc said, “NAEPP-level care specifically calls for evaluation of the role of allergens in patients who have persistent asthma. By identifying allergens, patients can reduce exposure to allergens and take action to minimize symptoms, possibly reduce their reliance on expensive prescription medicines and hopefully avoid trips to the hospital emergency room. Unfortunately, many Americans with asthma, especially those receiving public assistance, do not receive NAEPP-level care. This adds cost to our healthcare system and puts asthma patients at risk.”

Nancy Sander, president and founder of AANMA, said, “We thank Phadia for their support of Asthma Awareness Day Capitol Hill 2009. Improving care for all asthma patients is a crucial issue for our organization and at the heart and soul of our mission. It’s unfortunate that guidelines established by a government-funded panel are not applied to asthma patients served by federally funded healthcare programs. Asthma adds more than $20 billion to the cost of healthcare in the U.S. At a time when the entire nation is intensely focused on reducing healthcare expenses, we cannot overlook preventive measures like those called for in the NAEPP guidelines.”

AANMA’s 12th annual Asthma Awareness Day Capitol Hill On May 6 will ask Congress to take no-nonsense steps to save lives and dramatically reduce the financial burden asthma places on families. Speakers will include members of Congress, leading physicians and families whose lives have been affected by asthma. Congressional supporters of AANMA’s initiatives are listed on the event website.

About Phadia

Phadia AB, headquartered in Uppsala, Sweden, is the world leader in in vitro IgE diagnostic research and product development. Its US affiliate, Phadia US is in Portage, Michigan. For more information, contact their Customer Service at 800.346.4364.

For more information on Phadia or ImmunoCAP, please visit isitallergy/.

About Asthma Awareness Day

Held on May 6, 2009, AANMA’s 12th annual Asthma Awareness Day Capitol Hill will support disease-specific and patient-centric healthcare reform initiatives that will save lives and money. Members of Congress and the media will attend a breakfast briefing to meet families whose life-and-death stories demonstrate need for action, healthcare experts whose programs currently save lives and money in America’s lowest income, hardest hit populations, and nonprofit organizations who provide free quality services to patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asthma affects 23 million Americans and causes 3,884 deaths a year.

Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics

Medtronic Pledges $1 Million To Relief Efforts In Japan

Medtronic, Inc. (NYSE: MDT) announced today that it is pledging a total of $1 million (U.S.) in direct grants, employee matching grants and product donations to support near- and long-term relief efforts in Japan following the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami.

“Consistent with our Mission, we are committed to helping people in need.”

Direct grants will be made to organizations currently aiding in relief and recovery efforts. The Medtronic Foundation will continue to assess the needs of the people of Japan to determine where funding will be allocated.

“Our thoughts are with the people of Japan during this extremely difficult time,” said Bill Hawkins, chairman and CEO of Medtronic. “Consistent with our Mission, we are committed to helping people in need.”



General Population Unlikely To Suffer Health Effects From 9/11 Air Exposures, Risk Analysis Study Says

“Except for inhalation exposures that may have occurred on 9/11, and a few days afterward, the ambient (air concentration) data suggest that persons in the general population were unlikely to suffer short-term or long-term adverse health effects caused by inhalation exposures,” scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will report in the journal Risk Analysis.

“Assessment of Inhalation Exposures and Potential Health Risks to the General Population that Resulted from the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers” appears in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal (Vol. 27, No. 5, 2007). The journal is published by the McLean-based Society for Risk Analysis .

Matthew Lorber of the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA), Office of Research and Development (ORD), Washington; four EPA colleagues, and a scientist with the consulting firm Sciences International, Alexandria, Va., write: “While these (air concentrations) were substantially elevated above typical background for the early days, they only occasionally exceeded health benchmarks after the first few weeks, and they had returned to typical background levels by November and December 2001.”

In the days following the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers, the EPA initiated numerous air-monitoring activities to better understand the ongoing impact of emissions from that disaster, the authors report. Contaminants evaluated included particulate matter (PM), metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, asbestos, volatile organic compounds, particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), silica and synthetic vitreous fibers (SVFs).

EPA began taking limited site-related measurements the afternoon of September 11. By September 14, fixed air-monitoring sites had been established for asbestos and other contaminants, and by September 16 the first samples of dioxin, PAHs and PCBs were taken from these fixed sites.

Using these data, the scientists conducted an inhalation exposure and human health risk assessment to the general population. The report does not address exposures and potential impacts that could have occurred to rescue workers, firefighters and other site workers, nor does it address exposures that could have occurred in the indoor environment.

The authors also found that:

- “Persons exposed to extremely high levels of ambient PM and its components, SVF, and other contaminants during the collapse of the WTC towers and for several hours afterward were likely to be at risk of acute and potentially chronic respiratory effects,” and

- “Following the extremely high levels of contaminants associated with the collapse of the WTC towers, available data suggest that concentrations within and near (Ground Zero) remained significantly elevated above background levels for a few days.”

The authors acknowledged limitations to their study, including uncertainty about air quality during the first few hours and days after 9/11, and the fact that difficulties associated with site access and security, power supply sources, equipment availability and analytical capacity hindered efforts to begin regular monitoring for several days.

The authors also noted that while this analysis by EPA evaluated the potential for health impacts based on measured air concentrations, epidemiological studies conducted by organizations other than EPA have identified respiratory effects in worker and general populations, and developmental effects in newborns whose mothers were near Ground Zero on 9/11 or shortly thereafter.

These researchers have concluded that exposure to WTC contaminants (and/or maternal stress, in the case of developmental effects) resulted in these effects, and have identified the time period including 9/11 itself and the days and few weeks afterwards as a period of most concern based on high concentrations of key pollutants in the air and dust.

In addition to Lorber, the authors are Lester Grant, Joseph Pinto and David Cleverly, also of the EPA’s NCEA ORD, Washington; Joachim Pleil of the EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory, ORD, Research Triangle Park, N.C., and Sciences International’s Herman Gibb.

Risk Analysis

Physicians At Rush University Medical Center Tackle Pulmonary Hypertension: A Complex Disease That Affects The Heart And Lungs

Cardiologists and pulmonologists at Rush University Medical Center have teamed up to provide a new and better approach to treating patients with pulmonary hypertension, a disease affecting the heart and lungs. The new Rush Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic brings together a multidisciplinary team of clinicians with specialized training to care for patients with this very complex disease.

Pulmonary hypertension is high pressure in the arteries that lead from the heart to the lungs. Due to the high pressure, the right ventricle of the heart must pump harder, ultimately causing heart failure or other potentially fatal complications. A diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension once meant a very dire prognosis. However, recent advances in the diagnosis and management of this complex disease have changed outcomes dramatically.

“In the 25 years since I started my practice,” says Dr. James Calvin, director of the Section of Cardiology at Rush, “treatments for pulmonary hypertension have come a long way. There are new guidelines, new research and more is becoming known about pulmonary hypertension; but it is not so common that all physicians are aware of the latest treatments and drugs.”

Pulmonary hypertension can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are nonspecific and mimic the symptoms of other lung or heart disease. Sixty percent of patients will have shortness of breath as the initial symptom. Other symptoms include fatigue, chest pain, syncope (fainting), palpitations and leg swelling.

When there is reason to suspect pulmonary hypertension based on symptoms, the first test used in diagnosing the condition is an echocardiogram, followed by a right heart catheterization to measure pulmonary arterial pressure. To determine what is causing the elevated pressure and how severe it is, patients may undergo additional tests including CT scan, cardiac MRI, pulmonary function and lab work.

The illness stems from a broad range of problems, including heart attack, lung disease, and HIV. Treatment is very complex and may include surgery and a variety of medications, including recently developed oral therapies that widen blood vessels or stop them from narrowing. These oral therapies, Calvin says, represent an important advance in treatment, freeing many patients from medications that had to be continuously administered intravenously.

To address the many complexities of pulmonary hypertension, the new clinic pools the resources of Dr. Calvin, Dr. Rajive Tandon, a pulmonologist, and Dr. Claudia Gidea, a cardiac imaging specialist.

Patients can meet with a cardiologist and a pulmonologist on the same day, in the same office. This arrangement enables the physicians to work in consultation with each other, providing patients with care that comprehensively addresses their various causes of their illness.

“Because the disease is so complicated, it’s likely patients will have problems that require more than one specialist,” Calvin says. “Now, with the clinic, we can put our heads together to come up with a solution.”

The clinic allows doctors to diagnose the cause and severity of the disease and administer treatment more quickly and effectively than they otherwise could. “The patient can see the exact right person at the exact right time,” Tandon says. “And that’s important because patients’ time is very precious.”

“The idea of the clinic is more than just medical,” Calvin says. “It’s about managing the disease in the long term.”


Rush University Medical Center

British Adventurers Undertake Groundbreaking South Pole Expedition

Two Britons are embarking on a groundbreaking expedition to reach the South Pole that has never been attempted before.

They will be part of a three-man team who will make history when they reattempt Sir Ernest Shackleton’s epic expedition to the South Pole on 20 November 2007; a century after the original expedition took place.

James Fox and Richard Dunwoody MBE will join Doug Stoop, the US’s equivalent of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, as the first men to take the infamous route last attempted in 1915 when Shackleton abandoned his expedition after losing his ship, Endurance. ‘Beyond Shackleton’ will lead the men across undiscovered terrain including the formidable Great Crevasse Field, never before crossed on foot.

Adventurer James Fox will realise a childhood dream that began at 14 when he heard Sir Robert Swann OBE speak. Fox says,

‘I remember Robert Swan telling everyone he hoped his speech would inspire just one person in the room to go to the pole and reach for his dreams. I knew then that person was me.

I want to raise money for young people in an effort to inspire them to fulfil their true ambitions as Swan inspired me. This is why I will be raising money for the ‘The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award’.

I will also be doing the trip in memory of my grandmother who died of Alzheimer’s so I will be supporting the Alzheimer’s Society, by raising vital funds to help support people with dementia and their carers.’

The team will depart from edge of the Antarctic ice shelf, ascending up to 3,000m (10,000ft) onwards to the South Pole across blue ice. They hope to reach the Geographic South Pole in 60 days totally unsupported and dragging sleds weighing over one and times their body weight while facing temperature as cold as -50c (-58 Fahrenheit) and a wind chill factor from strong katabatic winds.

To find out more about the expedition’s progress or to donate the charities James is supporting, go to beyondshackleton and follow the sponsorship links.


- 1 in 3 older people will end their lives with a form of dementia

- 700,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, more than half have Alzheimer’s disease. In less than 20 years nearly a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to 1.7 million people by 2051. 1 in 6 people over 80 have dementia.

- The Alzheimer’s Society champions the rights of people living with dementia and those who care for them. The Alzheimer’s Society works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

- As a charity, the Alzheimer’s Society depends on the generosity of the public to help it care, research and campaign for people with dementia. You can donate now by calling 0845 306 0898 or visiting alzheimers/.

American Lung Association Supports Pentagon Health Official’s Push For A Tobacco-Free Military

Statement of Captain Charles D. Connor, U.S. Navy (Ret.), American Lung Association President and CEO:

A new report released by the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) finds the Department of Defense spends more than $1.6 billion each year on tobacco-related medical care, increased hospitalizations and lost days of work. Last year, the Department of Veterans Affairs spent more than $5 billion to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an often fatal respiratory disease linked closely to smoking.

USA Today reports that Pentagon health experts have taken notice and are urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to “to ban the use of tobacco by troops and end its sale on military property.” The American Lung Association applauds the Pentagon for responding positively to these important recommendations to protect the health of those in uniform.

The IOM report also found that tobacco use interferes with military readiness. In the short term, smokers are more susceptible to colds and other respiratory infections, which can weaken a soldier’s physical fitness and stamina. Of even greater concern in the long term, nearly half of all smokers will die as the result of their addiction. The IOM found that one in three service members use tobacco, which is substantially higher than the general adult population where one in five smokes.

To its great credit, in the last century the military led the way in many difficult issues such as racial integration, equal opportunity, gender equality, drug abuse, physical fitness, suicide prevention, among many others. The time has come for the military to tackle, once and for all, the terrible scourge of tobacco use among its young population, who are becoming addicted to this deadly substance for the first time while serving our country.

The Lung Association urges Pentagon officials to act quickly to implement measures that will herald in a new era of healthier, tobacco-free soldiers. By requiring new officers and enlisted personnel to not use tobacco combined with implementing and enforcing smokefree policies on all military installations, countless lives will be saved. The Lung Association also strongly supports the report’s recommendation to end the sale of tobacco products at base exchanges and commissaries.

The American Lung Association

Get That Flu Shot Now

Don’t worry, it’s not too late. October and November are the perfect time to get that flu shot according to Dr. Daniel A. Hussar, Remington professor of pharmacy of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

“The time is now to derive the optimum benefit,” Hussar said of getting a flu shot. “Typically, it takes two weeks after receiving the flu shot for its full protective effect to develop. If someone hasn’t gotten the shot, it’s not too late.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 15 to 60 million people in the United States (five to 20 percent of the population) will get the flu. Of that, more than 200,000 people will be hospitalized from flu complications, and about 36,000 people will die from flu.

Hussar recommends the flu shot as the best option for protection. The flu shot contains a killed influenza virus that when injected causes the body to form antibodies against the virus. Another option, the nasal-spray flu vaccine, contains a weakened version of the live influenza virus.

“Personally, I feel that the flu shot is the best option,” Hussar said. “The mist is safe, but it has more restrictions on its use. For example, it’s recommended that it not be used during pregnancy whereas the flu shot is strongly recommended to be taken by women who are pregnant.”

Feel perfectly healthy and can resist the flu? Hussar still recommends that even healthy individuals get the flu shot, especially those who are in contact with family members who may be ill or young children. Even healthy people can act as a carrier for the virus and can transmit it to others who are more vulnerable to developing the infection and experiencing its complications. The flu shot helps to reduce that risk.

The flu shot provides protection against many strains of the flu virus. Since, the viruses mutate on a continuing basis, the composition of the flu vaccine is changed from year to year. The CDC and other groups monitor which strains are most prevalent and most likely to be an issue in the upcoming flu season. They develop the vaccine to combat the strains that are most likely to occur.

Not all stains of influenza are accounted for. As of now, there is no vaccination against the Avian or Bird flu, a more virulent strain of the virus.

Hussar is confident that there will not be a shortage this year. Additionally, flu shots should be available more widely not only because of the greater supply but also because of an increased number of individuals who are authorized to give immunizations, including pharmacists.

“When it comes to flu shots – get it,” Hussar said. “The supply seems to be sufficient to cover everybody who tries to get one.”

University of the Sciences in Philadelphia is a private, coeducational institution founded in 1821 as Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, the first college of pharmacy in North America. It is where the founders of six of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world launched their futures. Comprising four colleges across a broad range of majors, USP specializes in educating its 2,500 students for rewarding careers through its undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs in pharmacy, science, and the health sciences.

University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
600 S. 43rd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Compounds Fend Off Alzheimer’s Disease Amyloid Pathology

A team of scientists, led by University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers, has synthesized hundreds of new compounds with the potential of reducing the production of the A-beta 42 peptide, a primary component of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

In mouse models, one tested compound specifically reduced levels of A-beta 42, which is believed to be responsible for the destruction of neurons, but left other essential enzymatic activities in the brain unaffected, said Steven Wagner, PhD, a project scientist in UCSD Department of Neurosciences.

The research, which will be published in the September 8 advance online edition of the journal Neuron, includes collaborators at the University of Chicago, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and several San Diego-based biotechnology companies.

“Current drug efforts have tried to broadly knock out peptide activity, but with resulting adverse side effects such as nausea, gastrointestinal problems, hair color changes and skin cancer,” said Wagner. “Our approach is to target and inhibit only the production of key peptides that may play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, while leaving other catalytic processes alone. If some of the compounds we’ve synthesized are shown to do that in humans, we might eventually be able to inhibit or reduce further plaque production and ultimately prevent Alzheimer’s before symptoms actually appear.”

Amyloid plaques are tell-tale protein deposits found abundantly in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The plaques, along with neurofibrillary tangles, interfere with normal neuron functioning. In healthy cellular metabolisms, chemical compounds are constantly being combined or parsed to perform different duties. Among them are two peptides known as A-beta 42 and A-beta 40. High levels of these peptides, particularly A-beta 42, have been linked to the creation of beta-amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease, a neurodegenerative condition that afflicts 5.3 Americans and more than 26 million people worldwide. AD is marked by progressive dementia, most notably memory loss. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

Existing drugs in development do not specifically target A-beta 42 levels. Wagner and colleagues looked for small molecules that might preferentially reduce levels of A-beta 42, but leave other cellular components and activities alone. The scientists screened more than 80,000 molecules looking for compounds that fit specific criteria. They found one, which they used as a template to synthesize hundreds of additional related compounds called gamma-secretase modulators or GSMs. These compounds are different and far more potent than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory molecules that have been used by others in previous studies. One GSM was tested in a transgenic mouse model designed to overproduce A-beta 42 and 40 and develop neuritic plaques. Given single daily oral doses of the GSM, the researchers report that levels of A-beta 42 declined and neuritic plaques were dramatically reduced in the mouse model.

“We’ve shown that a compound can modulate enzyme activity without completely shutting down the enzyme,” said Wagner. “We think we’ve opened up a new area of drug discovery for pharmaceutical companies and universities. We hope they will pursue some of these compounds to see if they can be used in people.”
Ultimately, said Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital and one of the paper’s co-authors, the hope is that one or more of the synthesized compounds or something similar might be used to treat, even prevent, Alzheimer’s disease.

“They could be used like statins are used today to prevent heart disease,” said Tanzi. “If there was pre-symptomatic evidence that amyloid levels were too high in a patient’s brain, a GSM might be taken to lower relevant peptide levels and reduce AD risk. You don’t want to knock out these peptides. They have a purpose. You just want to dial them back to safe levels.”

Co-authors include Maria Z. Kounnas of Neurogenetic Pharmaceuticals and Torrey Pines Therapeutics; Anne M. Danks of Torrey Pines Therapeutics and Helicon Therapeutics; Soan Cheng and Phuong Nguyen of Torrey Pines Therapeutics and UC San Diego Department of Neurosciences; Curtis Tyree, Elizabeth Ackerman, Dan Comer, Long Mao, Chengzhi Yu, David Pleynet and Paul J. Digregorio of Torrey Pines Therapeutics; Xulun Zhang of The Center for Molecular Neurobiology, University of Chicago; Kwangwook Ahn in the Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Gonul Velicelebi and Kenneth A. Stauderman of Torrey Pines Therapeutics and CalciMedica; William T. Comer of Neurogenetic Pharmaceuticals and Torrey Pines Therapeutics; William C. Mobley of the Department of Neurosciences at UC San Diego; Yue-Ming Li of the Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Sangram S. Sisodia at The Center for Molecular Neurobiology at the University of Chicago.


University of California, San Diego Health Sciences

Researchers Barcode DNA Of Vast Fungi Collection

In the storerooms of a Venice, Italy, museum, a University of California, Berkeley, scholar and Italian experts are at work on a rare collection, but the objects aren’t Renaissance paintings or the art of ancient glassblowers. Instead, the team is collecting samples from the largest and best preserved collection of fungi in Italy to create an unprecedented DNA database.

These 28,000 samples of fungi that represent 6,000 species – many of which are quite rare – are housed at the Venice Museum of Natural History, a partner with UC Berkeley for this ambitious project. The collection also is one of the largest in Europe.

The project was publicly announced in Italy at the prestigious Venetian Institute of Sciences, Letters and Arts.

“We are building up a huge molecular database that will be available to the entire scientific community,” said Matteo Garbelotto, UC Berkeley adjunct associate professor of ecosystem sciences and principal investigator of the project. “In addition to aiding research on the productivity of forests and agricultural ecosystems, this database will greatly aid the diagnosis of plant diseases.”

Fungi are a kingdom of organisms that include yeasts, mushrooms and mold. They are essential to most terrestrial ecosystems, channeling nutrients in the soil and making them available for the growth of plants, including trees and agricultural crops. “Without fungi, there would be no forests,” Garbelotto pointed out.

A large number of fungi are also plant pathogens and cause serious diseases of crops and trees, especially when transported to new areas of the world through the global trade of goods and movement of people. In addition, some species of fungi can lead to human illness, including pneumonia, skin infections, allergies and asthma.

Garbelotto is perhaps best known for his work in the identification of Phytophthora ramorum, the fungus-like plant pathogen that made its way from Europe to the United States. The pathogen is responsible for sudden oak death, the disease that has caused widespread dieback of tanoaks and coast live oaks in California and southwest Oregon.

“In the case of exotic plant diseases, DNA information may be used, as it is in criminal forensics, to identify possible culprits and to understand how they were introduced,” said Garbelotto. “This provides governments with pivotal information needed to avoid repeated introductions of pathogens.”

Garbelotto is working with Italian mycologist Giovanni Robich and Luca Mizzan, curator of Marine Biology at the Venice Museum of Natural History, to sort through the samples in the museum, which are being sent to Garbelotto’s lab at UC Berkeley for DNA sequencing and analysis.

The Venice Natural History Museum is part of the Musei Civici Veneziani, a network of 11 museums in Venice. It is housed in the Fontego dei Turchi, a Byzantine-style palace on the Grand Canal that dates back to the 12th century. Before it was established as a museum in 1923, it had served as a trading depot for Turkish merchants.

“Often museums are seen as places where people just go and see things,” said Garbelotto, who is doing this work during a sabbatical leave from UC Berkeley. “This shows that museums are actually involved in cutting-edge research. Providing a database of this scope is pretty novel.”

Museum curator Mizzan said the museum’s vast collection of fungi got a kick start when the Venice Society of Mycology formed in the late 1980s to monitor the mycological flora in the Lagoon of Venice and surrounding areas. The collected samples represented over 1,200 species of fungi and formed the foundation of the museum’s present collection.

Garbelotto noted that the relatively young age of the samples has been critical to obtaining good quality tissue for DNA analysis. The samples come from throughout Europe, with a significant number representing species found elsewhere in the world.

Rather than sequencing the entire genome of each species, the researchers are focusing on a non-coding region of the ribosomal DNA that is known to be unique in each species. The length of the region varies from around 450 base pairs to 900 base pairs, depending upon the taxa from which it is sampled.

“If you’re going to cross-compare species, you’ve got to amplify the same region,” said Sarah Bergemann, the post-doctoral researcher in ecosystem science who is heading the lab analysis work at UC Berkeley. Bergemann is working with Amy Smith, staff research associate at Garbelotto’s lab, to process the samples Garbelotto sends from Italy.

“This will be important for people who study the evolutionary characteristics of fungi,” said Bergemann. “They’ll be able to use our database for cross comparisons. It’s also useful for people who study species distribution. For example, if you want to figure out how some species are related to one another, and you know something about their taxonomy, you can go back to their DNA to see if the morphological characteristics match their molecular code.”

Without the DNA fingerprint, researchers traditionally need to wait for fungi to fruit or mushroom to identify them. “This can be very limiting because mushrooms are only produced seasonally, with some species only fruiting once every several years,” said Garbelotto. “The database we are creating will allow people to identify the fungi present in plants, in the soil and in the air at any time.”

The project, which began in April, is expected to be completed by the end of 2007. “We do not know of any similar project in Europe, at least of this dimension,” said Enrico Ratti, the museum’s scientific director.

“The importance of this project is in the cooperation between different subjects, namely private collectors, a private association, a public municipal museum and a foreign university,” said Giandomenico Romanelli, director of the Musei Civici Veneziani. “We think that this is an exemplar model, to be followed in subsequent projects. Furthermore, in our philosophy, natural science collections are public goods that everybody belonging to the scientific community should be able to take advantage of.”

Contact: Sarah Yang

University of California – Berkeley