Scientists Find ‘Time Genetic System’ for Brain Activity

London- Genetic studies open wide horizons for scientists to detect ties between genes and human growth, development, and diseases, as well as genes’ effects on the human tempers and behaviors.

In one of three separate studies published recently, British scientists found a “time genetic program” for brain growth, while US researchers in a second study analyzed genetic mutations, and indications that warn from rare diseases. Finally, researchers in sociology and genetics found that a human capacity of learning, as well as the beginnings of pregnancy in women, are not associated with the same genes found in different peoples.

Genetic activity in the brain

The first study conducted by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and published in the journal «E Life» discovered a genetic program that controls the process of brain change during human life.

Scientists said this program controls the activation or suspension of genes inside the brain within different stages of human life, in order to enable the brain to perform its tasks and functions. They added that timings of processing in this system are so accurate, that researchers can determine the age of a human by looking at the type of active genes found in the brain tissue samples.

Scientists analyzed available data on measurements of gene activity in samples of brain tissues throughout human life, starting from the embryos phase to 78 years of age. They found that there is a strict time schedule for gene activity over life, and that the changes occurring in it reach its peak when a person hits middle age.

They added that the schedule is a bit late for women, which means that women’s brains grew slower than men. The largest gene reorganization occurs in the brain during the youth phase, reaching its highest level in the human’s 26th year.

Researchers also found that this time genetic program also exists in mice, but it changes more rapidly during their short lifetime. Professor Seth Grant, president of the University’s Genetics and Cognition Laboratory, and lead author of the study said: “This discovery of a genetic program in the brain opens a new route to understand behavior as well as brain diseases throughout the life span.”

Mutations of rare diseases

In the second study, researchers at Harvard University developed a method to identify genetic markers associated with rare diseases, after analyzing data on genes of some people who have common ambiguous symptoms.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal “Cell Systems” concerned in cell research, said they carried out large-scale genetic analyzes to identify genetic distortions or mutations in a number of people, and compared them with genetic analyzes of people who don’t have these symptoms.

Despite that the study examined few people, and rare diseases in the United States are classified as diseases affecting less than one in 200,000 people, researchers have verified their hypothesis saying that a gene that looks active in an organ, may suffer from a genetic mutation that affect the health of that organ’s tissues.

For example, a genetic mutation in one of the heart’s active genes will most likely lead to heart disease. The scientists’ hypothesis has been verified in some organs, such as heart, brain, skin and muscles, but not in other organs, such as tissue of chest, thyroid, and stomach.

Isaac Kohane, co-director of the HMS Center for Biomedical Informatics at University’s School of Medicine, and lead author of the study, said: “Our findings confirm the importance of using large-scale data on genes to find patterns about gene activity in each organ, so that we can understand genetic mutations and their role.”

Learning and genes

The third study conducted by scientists from the University of Oxford found that the genes associated with learning and success in the education system, as well as the genes associated with women fertility, are not the same among all populations around the world. Yet, they are associated with the place and the era in which a human lives. In short, the capacity of learning and fertility is linked to the spatial and temporal environment.

Scientists often use the research practices adopted in current genetic studies to conduct other ones that link biological aspects of human life with genes; therefore, they isolate one gene and link it to its results or outcomes. For example, to study physical characteristics, the association would be clear between genes and human length, or the body mass index, which refers to thinness or obesity.

The identification of the link between genes and human behavior, however, seems much more difficult compared with the effects of external factors on that behavior. Researchers from the University of Oxford, Department of Sociology with researchers from other institutes at the university have collected genetic data for 35,062 men and women from different eras and six countries: Australia, Estonia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Britain and the United States.

In the study published in the journal “Nature Human Behavior”, researchers found that genes associated with different outcomes such as learning and fertility vary over time and from a geographical location to another.

This difference may be due to social conditions related to learning and pregnancy in women, in each country, at any given time, and according to the prevailing traditions.

Researchers found that 40 percent of the genetic effects on learning and on the time of fertility (pregnancy for the first time) were not clear, which means that they were hidden when studying the genetic data of those peoples.

Melinda Mills, a professor of sociology and the study lead author, said: “The study emphasizes the importance of raising new questions based on social and environmental facts. It shows that, when it comes to studying the characteristics of behavior, genetic influences highly depend on the surrounding social environment.”

Who Stands Behind Terrorist Attacks in the West?

A truck forced itself into the Christmas market near Breitscheidplatz, a popular tourist destination in western Berlin, a bit after 8 PM. On December 20, 2016

London- In the first detailed analysis of terrorist operations against European countries and the United States over the past years, a new report by international terrorism experts presents an overview of terrorists led by extremist ideologies and their affiliations.

The report also reviews the various aspects of terrorist attacks, including their locations, the way they occurred and the number of casualties.

It also outlines the identity of the extremists, their nationalities, the degree to which the authorities were aware of their past activities, and, finally, their association with extremist organizations such as ISIS.

The report, entitled, “Fear Thy Neighbor. Radicalization and Jihadist Attacks in the West”, was prepared by a group of researchers led by Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, the director of the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University and of the Program on Radicalization and International Terrorism at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) in Milan.

The research is part of a report by ISPI, George Washington’s Program on Extremism and the International Centre for Counter-terrorism in The Hague, conducted by Dr. Vidino, along with Dr. Francesco Marone and Eva Entenmann.

The first chapter of the book, “From Syria with Hate”, speaks of the origins of the current wave of terrorism. The second chapter describes an analysis of three years of attacks. Chapter Three presents a classification of attacks, while the fourth and final chapter examines the role played by the centers of extremism.

The report identified 63 attacks between September 2014 and late August 2017 that were considered to be acts of jihadist terrorism.

A relatively limited number of countries were affected: nine in Europe, plus Denmark and Sweden – along with the US and Canada.

“Although the vast majority of Islamist attacks are elsewhere in the world, an unprecedented number has taken place in Europe and North America since the declaration of a “caliphate” by the so-called ISIS, in June 2014,” the report said.

The report noted that regardless of country, most attacks were in large towns and cities – including Barcelona, London, Manchester, Paris, Nice, Berlin, Brussels, Stockholm and Orlando.

A few attacks hit iconic targets, such as the Champs-Elysees and the Louvre museum in Paris, Westminster in London and Las Ramblas in Barcelona, the report added.

In total, the 63 attacks caused 424 deaths and left almost 1,800 people injured, according to the research.

Pointing out that the average age of attackers was 27.5, the report said that the two youngest were 15 – an unnamed boy who attacked a Jewish teacher with a machete in Marseille, and Safia S, a girl who stabbed a police officer at a Hannover train station.

The oldest suspect, Mohamed H Khalid, was 54 when he was accused of stabbing to death an elderly couple in the Austrian city of Linz.

The report also highlighted the fact that 74 percent of attackers were known to the authorities before the attack, while 50% had a criminal background.

It also revealed that the number of attackers, who were illegally in a country or who arrived as refugees, is small.

As for the affiliation with ISIS, the report noted that two of the four most lethal attacks – those in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels in 2016 – are believed to be well orchestrated multiple attacks directed by ISIS.

It added that although it was difficult to tell whether the attack was plotted by ISIS or not, the influence of the terrorist group could be clearly seen in most of the attacks.

Climate Change Threatens Protein Deficiency, Global Famine

Climate

London – Climate change is draining crops of protein and therefore creating a famine threat around the world, according to two separate studies published on Wednesday.

Protein deficiency

In a first of its kind step, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, published a study stating that if the present rates of carbon dioxide emissions do not stop, people in around 18 countries around the world may face a loss of around 5 percent of the protein they obtain from their diet by 2050.

Researchers estimate that roughly 150 million people may be at risk of protein deficiency because of elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Senior research scientist at the Department of Environmental Health Samuel Myers said that this would serve as a warning to the countries at risk to start working towards monitoring and controlling their emissions as well as improving human nutritional sufficiency and adequacy.

The study, “Estimated Effects of Future Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations on Protein Intake and the Risk of Protein Deficiency by Country and Region,” was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Africa and Asia

Researchers explained that around 76 percent of the world population gets most of its dietary proteins from grains, such as rice and wheat, even though these are not high sources of protein.

They collected the data from experiments in which crops were exposed to high concentrations of CO2 and then combined these results with the global dietary information from the UN.

Under elevated CO2 concentrations, protein contents of rice, wheat, barley and potatoes decreased by 7.6%, 7.8%, 14.1% and 6.4%, respectively. The results suggested continuing challenges for Sub Saharan Africa, where millions already experience protein deficiency, and growing challenges for South Asian countries, including India, where rice and wheat supply a large portion of daily protein.

India may lose 5.3% of protein from a standard diet, putting a predicted 53 million people at new risk of protein deficiency, according to the researchers.

Diseases in Europe

Another research studied the impact of climate change on the emergence and spread of infectious diseases in Europe and concluded that it could be greater than previously thought.

The study of University of Liverpool, published in Scientific Reports, is the first large-scale assessment of how climate affects bacterium, viruses or other microorganisms and parasites that can cause disease in humans or animals in Europe.

Growing evidence shows that climate change is altering the distribution of some diseases, in some cases causing epidemics or making diseases spread within their natural range, for example, Zika virus in South America, or bluetongue and Schmallenberg disease in livestock in Europe.

Dr. Marie McIntyre of University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, explained that although there is a well-established link between climate change and infectious disease, it wasn’t previously understood how big the effects will be and which diseases will be most affected.

“Climate sensitivity of pathogens is a key indicator that diseases might respond to climate change, so assessing which pathogens are most climate-sensitive, and their characteristics, is vital information if we are to prepare for the future,” she added.

Nearly two-thirds of the pathogens examined were found to be sensitive to climate; and two-thirds of these have more than one climate driver, meaning that the impact of climate change upon them will likely be multifaceted and complex.

Diseases spread by insects and ticks were found to be the most climate sensitive, followed by those transmitted in soil, water and food. The diseases with the largest number of different climate drivers were Vibrio cholerae which cause cholera), Fasciola hepatica that causes liver fluke, Bacillus anthracis, causes anthrax, and Borrelia burgdorferi, the cause of tickborne Lyme disease).

Pathogens that spread from animals to humans were also found to be more climate sensitive than those that affect only humans or only animals. Emerging diseases may be particularly likely to be impacted by climate change.

Genomic Map Promises New Treatment for Chronic Diseases

maps

London – British experts announced that their country is on the precipice of a revolutionary discovery in genomic testing making it a normal part of National Health System (NHS) care, beginning with cancer patients and those with rare diseases.

In her annual report, Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said it was time to end the “diagnostic odyssey” and she described the testing as “genomics dream” which would see millions of patients having all their DNA tested as genome sequencing becomes as routine as MRI or CT scans.

Davies said NHS must embrace DNA testing which can correctly identify not just illnesses but also specific genetic mutations which play a dramatic role in success of treatments, adding that it should be available as standard as blood tests, MRI and CT scans by 2022.

Chief Medical Officer explained that with genomic testing drugs can be matched to the disease and to the patient to maximise the benefit and reduce side-effects.

Davies says that individual patients have everything to gain from the pooling of data which allows scientists to compare hundreds of thousands of genomes, to find out why some have small mutations or errors in the code that lead to illness.

“The age of precision medicine is now and the NHS must act fast to keep its place at the forefront of global science,” said Davies.

“This technology has the potential to change medicine forever – but we need all NHS staff, patients and the public to recognise and embrace its huge potential. Genomic medicine has huge implications for the understanding and treatment of rare diseases, cancer and infections,” she added.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the report, pointing out that the UK had established itself as a world leader in genomics medicine.

He added: “Tens of thousands of patients across the country have already benefited from quicker-diagnosis, precise treatment and care, and we will support the NHS to continue its relentless drive to push the boundaries of modern science.”

Tests prices fell to to £680 which is part of what made greater access to whole genome sequencing feasible.

The genome is the collection of 20,000 genes, including 3.2 billion letters of DNA, that make up any individual.

In other news, Scientists at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, UK, have found a way to detect these changes, which could enhance cancer diagnosis and aid the use of targeted treatments.

Journal Genome Biology outlined a new application of a technique called Hi-C, which allows scientists to map how genetic material is arranged inside cells.

By analyzing this information, researchers can reliably identify major genetic changes that other methods may miss.

“Chromosomal rearrangements are seen both in the general population and in the majority of cancers. Detection of chromosome rearrangements in patients can be troublesome and many can be missed. This can be detrimental, particularly in oncology where rearrangements can play both diagnostic and prognostic roles,” member of study Dr. Louise Harewood, stated.

Professor Peter Fraser, used Hi-C to examine the genome of cancer cells from six people with brain tumors. They were able to identify major genome changes, often with pinpoint accuracy.

NSA Requested to Stop Ransomware Attack

Microsoft

London – Operation Petya, a ransomware similar to Wannacry, attacked a large number of computers on a global scale which prompted several international experts demanding the National Security Agency (NSA) to exert more efforts to fight these viruses.

Wannacry is a global ransomware which attacked computers on May 13 and reportedly affected more than 300 thousand systems and servers around the world within 72 hours.

British security experts said that Petya attack occurred in different areas around the world and they believe it started in Ukraine.

The cyber-attack has caused disruption around the world and infected companies in 64 countries, including banks in Ukraine, Russian oil giant Rosneft, British advertising company WPP and US law firm DLA Piper.

Fingers are pointing towards MEDoc, Ukrainian tax-filing software, as the source of the infection, although the company denies it. Usually, malware generally infiltrates networks via email attachments that users click on in error.

Microsoft described the method as “a recent dangerous trend”, according to BBC.

A number of security experts, believe MEDoc to be the source of transfer of the malware.

British malware expert Marcus Hutchins, credited with ending the WannaCry ransomware outbreak, claim to have logs that reveal MEDoc as the source.

“It looks like the software’s automatic update system was compromised and used to download and run malware rather than updates for the software,” Hutchins told BBC.

It was not yet clear how it had been compromised, he added.

MEDoc has denied the claims, in a Facebook post, but in a blog post analysing how the infection had taken hold on Windows machines, Microsoft also points the finger at the accounting software.

“Active infections of the ransomware initially started from the legitimate MEDoc update process,” it writes.

Electronic Weapon

The ransomware was spread using a Windows vulnerability known as Eternal Blue, discovered by the National Security Agency and leaked online.

Global chief information officer at New-Jersey-based IDT Golan Ben-Oni said that NSA needs to take a leadership role in working closely with security and operating system platform vendors such as Apple and Microsoft to address the plague that they’ve unleashed.

New York times reported Ben-Oni warning federal officials that more serious attacks were probably on the horizon.

In March, Microsoft patched updates that deal with the vulnerability in Windows software used by Eternal Blue, but hundreds of thousands of groups around the world failed to properly install the fix.

The company announced that using the latest version of its software will protect users from both viruses, but experts stated that issuing an update doesn’t mean it will actually be used.

“Just because you roll out a patch doesn’t mean it’ll be put in place quickly,” said Carl Herberger, vice president for security at Radware.

“The more bureaucratic an organization is, the higher chance it won’t have updated its software,” he added.

Researchers at F-Secure, a Finnish cybersecurity firm, believe that the ransomware used at least two other ways to spread on Tuesday including stealing victims’ credentials, even those who used the Microsoft patch could be vulnerable and potential targets for later attacks.

White House Reassures

The White House National Security Council said in a statement that the US is investigating the attack but that there is currently no risk to public safety, Reuters reported, and the US government is “determined to hold those responsible accountable.”

NSA didn’t respond to claims that EternalBlue was leaked by Shadow Brokers, group of hackers linked to Russia. North Korea is accused of spreading WannaCry virus. Both governments denied the allegations.

So far, although the attack has spread around the globe, it does not appear to have generated a great deal of ransom payments. Like WannaCry, the attack locks users out of their systems and files and demands a payment of $300 in the cryptocurrency bitcoin.

The attack is more severe this time because users are not able to run their computers unless they pay the ransom.

Spread of Virus

Ukraine suffered more than 60 per cent of the attacks, followed by Russia with more than 30 per cent, according to initial findings by researchers at the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab.

In Kiev, Ukrainian government said several of its ministries, local banks and metro systems had been affected. A number of other European companies, including Rosneft, the Russian energy giant; Saint-Gobain, the French construction materials company; and WPP, the British advertising agency, also said they had been targeted.

The cyber attack has hit the property arm of France’s biggest bank BNP Paribas one of the largest financial institutions known to be affected by an extortion campaign that started in Russia and Ukraine before spreading.

The attack hit BNP’s Real Estate subsidiary, a BNP Paribas spokeswoman told Reuters, after a person familiar with the matter had said that some staff computers were blocked on Tuesday due to the incident.

“The necessary measures have been taken to rapidly contain the attack,” she said.

BNP Paribas Real Estate provides advisory, property and investment management and development services mostly in Europe.

In Austria, a federal police spokesperson reported government-backed Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) saying “a small number” of international firms appeared to be affected, with tens of thousands of computers taken down.

In the United States, the multinational law firm DLA Piper also reported being hit. Hospitals in Pennsylvania were being forced to cancel operations after the attack hit computers at Heritage Valley Health Systems, a Pennsylvania health care provider, and its hospitals in Beaver and Sewickley, Penn., and satellite locations across the state.

Cadbury factory in Australia had to halt production late on Tuesday after computer systems went down.

Some experts believe ransomware is based on an older variant, originating from the GoldenEye malware in December 2016.

New Ransomware Attack Hits Economic Institutions

ormally you ask ATMs for money. In cyber-attacked Ukraine, ATMs ask you.

London – Dozens of European companies and institutions witnessed consecutive electronic attacks by a new ransomware virus called Petya, which is said to be locking computers that are infected and encrypting files on them.

The new cyber attack is similar to the ransomware that infected more than 300,000 computers last month.

The virus hit on Tuesday a number of Ukrainian governmental institutions, in addition to Russian oil companies and European, Indian and British firms.

Russian giant oil firm Rosneft said that the new virus has infected all of its computers.

Infected computers display a message demanding a Bitcoin ransom worth $300. Those who pay are asked to send confirmation of payment to an email address. However, the email provider has shut down that email address.

Petya severely hit Ukraine, where the government, banks, state power utility and Kiev’s airport and metro system were all affected.

The radiation monitoring system at Chernobyl was taken offline, forcing employees to use hand-held counters to measure levels at the former nuclear plant’s exclusion zone.

Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko tweeted an image of a government computer affected by the virus. He also said that all of the government’s computers have been infected.

Although the source of the virus is still unknown, experts said that the international ransomware was very much similar to “Wannacry”, which hit the world last month.

Ukraine’s Central Bank reported disruption to operations at banks and firms, including the state power distributor.

In the UK, the advertising firm WPP said its systems had also been struck down, while in the Netherlands a major shipping firm confirmed its computer terminals were malfunctioning.

The virus has also hit French construction materials company Saint-Gobain.

Miracle Pill Could Mimic Exercise

London- US scientists have discovered a miracle “exercise pill” that mimics the effects of going to the gym.

Lead researcher Dr. Joshua Butcher, from Augusta University in Georgia, US, said: “Ultimately, the goal of our research would be to create a pill that mimics the effect of exercise and protects against obesity.

The scientists found that suppressing production of the protein myostatin increased muscle mass and led to significant improvements in markers of heart and kidney health.

“A pill that inhibits myostatin could also have applications for muscle-wasting diseases, such as cancer, muscle dystrophy and Aids,” Butcher said.

“Given that exercise is one of the most effective interventions for obesity, this creates a cycle by which a person becomes trapped in obesity,” he added.

The researchers bred four groups of lean and obese mice that were genetically programmed either to produce uninhibited levels of myostatin or to be completely lacking in the protein.

As expected, mice with no myostatin became markedly more muscular.

Another study has said that prostate cancer risk could be reduced by over half by drinking coffee at express speed as an Italian-style espresso.

The latest study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, observed coffee consumption and prostate cancer rates of 7,000 male residents of Molise, in south-central Italy, for four years. Researchers saw a 53 percent drop in risk for subjects who drank more than three cups a day.

The research was carried out by the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention – I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed, Italy, in collaboration with the Italian National Institute of Health and the I.R.C.C.S. Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata of Rome.

“In recent years we have seen a number of international studies on this issue,” says George Pounis, Greek researcher at Neuromed and first author of the paper. “But scientific evidence has been considered insufficient to draw conclusions. Moreover, in some cases results were contradictory. Our goal, therefore, was to increase knowledge in this field and to provide a clearer view.”

While our own genes play a role in picking what foods to eat and then metabolizing them in a unique way, we are now discovering that other processes or microbes could also be involved.

Another study from Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal and Monash University, Australia, led by Carlos Ribeiro, had led neuroscientist in showing that gut bacteria has an effect on animals food preference. Researchers have identified two species of bacteria that impact their dietary decisions.

It is a fact that nutrients and a community of bacteria, which is called a microbiome, resides inside the stomach and impacts health and eating. However, being able to control behavior is a big leap which is what this new study shows.