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Category : Human Longevity

Partnership aims to accelerate cell and gene therapy – Harvard Gazette

MIT Provost Martin A. Schmidt said sharing the risk among several institutions will not only make possible work that would be difficult for a single institution to tackle, it will also encourage collaboration that accelerates the process of moving discoveries from lab to patient.

MIT researchers are developing innovative approaches to cell and gene therapy, designing new concepts for such biopharmaceutical medicines as well as new processes to manufacture these products and qualify them for clinical use, Schmidt said. A shared facility to de-risk this innovation, including production, will facilitate even stronger collaborations among local universities, hospitals, and companies and ultimately, such a facility can help speed impact and access for patients. MIT appreciates Harvards lead in convening exploration of this opportunity for the Commonwealth.

Richard McCullough, Harvards vice provost for research and professor of materials science and engineering, who also helped lead the project, said although the centers activity will revolve around science and manufacturing, its true focus will be on patients.

The centers overarching goal will be improving patient care, McCullough said. This would occur both by speeding access to the essential, modified cells that patients in clinical trials await, and by fostering discoveries through collaborations within the centers innovation space. The aim is that discoveries result in whole new treatments or improved application of existing treatments to provide relief to a wider universe of patients.

Organized as a private nonprofit, the center will be supported by more than $50 million pledged by its partners. It will be staffed by a team of at least 40, experienced in the latest cell-manufacturing techniques and trained in the use of the latest equipment. Among its goals is disseminating badly needed skills into the Boston life-sciences workforce.

We have to be sure that we are constantly feeding the industry with talented people who know the right things, so personally, I am very excited about education programs, Ligner said. Initiatives like [this center] are essential to advancing the industry because they help organizations build on one anothers advances. For example, the full potential of cell and gene therapies will only be realized if we collaborate to address challenges, such as manufacturing, improving access, accelerating innovation, tackling cost issues, and then sharing our learnings.

The new center emerged from conversations with state officials, including Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey, and industry sector leaders about ways to bolster Massachusetts preeminence in life science research and medical innovation. Those conversations sparked a two-year consultation process at the invitation of Garber and Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Bill Lee, that was coordinated with state officials and included representatives from industry, academia, venture capital, area hospitals, and government.

Cell and gene therapies have the potential to revolutionize the global health system. Recently, in Sweden, the first patient received cell therapy outside of a clinical trial. Its the start of an incredible time in the industry and in human health.

Emmanuel Ligner, president and chief executive of GE Healthcare Life Sciences

Called the Massachusetts Life Sciences Strategies Group, members reached out to regional experts beginning in 2017to discover what fields they considered most important and how best to support them. Cell and gene therapy rose to the top because of the considerable excitement generated by activity already going on, its potential to help patients, and its high potential for future growth and innovation. Also important were the opportunities to spread the high cost of these technologies across multiple institutions and, while so doing, capture the collaborative power of housing each player in the development chain within a single facility.

The centers board of directors will be comprised of Harvard, MIT, and industry partners Fujifilm, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, and GE Healthcare Life Sciences. Other members will include Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Womens Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Childrens Hospital, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; as well as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and life-sciences company MilliporeSigma.

When you look at the constellation of players coming together, you really have the best universities and the best teaching hospitals and the best corporate players all supporting it, McGuire said, which I think is a great opportunity.

The facility intends to provide researchers and emerging companies outside the consortium with access to excess material, though organizers said they expect it to be in high demand by center partners.

The centers boost to the areas cell and gene therapy endeavors comes early enough that it should help maintain leadership over places like California and China, which have made clear their interest in life-science research, McGuire said.

I think getting this early mover advantage is going to be huge [in] developing the technology and the know-how and, ultimately, the intellectual property around it, McGuire said.

For Sharpe, the ultimate payoff will come from using cancer immunotherapys checkpoint blockade and other cell and gene therapies to save and improve lives.

We are seeing long-term benefits in some patients whove received checkpoint blockade, Sharpe said. There are patients who are more than a decade out and are melanoma-free. I think that it really has transformed patient care, quality of life, and longevity. So Im optimistic that the more we learn, the more were going to be able to do to help patients.

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Partnership aims to accelerate cell and gene therapy - Harvard Gazette

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Extreme C book extract: Exploring structures and user-defined types in C – Developer Tech

The growth and popularity of C continues. The most recent TIOBE index of most popular programming languages saw C in a virtual dead heat with Java, knocking the latter off its perch for the first time in five years.

In his new book, Extreme C(left), Kamran Amini outlines the essential features of the language before moving onto encapsulation and composition, synchronisation, as well as advanced programming with code samples and integration with other languages, including C++, Java, and Python.

This extract, exclusive to Developer, explores structures within C, as well as touching on the reasons behind the almost 50-year-old languages continued longevity.


From the design perspective, structures are one of the most fundamental concepts in C. Nowadays, they are not unique to C, and you can find their twin concepts nearly in every modern programming language.

But we should discuss them in the history of computation when there were no other programming languages offering such a concept. Among many efforts to move away from machine-level programming languages, introducing structures was a great step toward having encapsulation in a programming language. For thousands of years, the way we think hasnt changed a lot, and encapsulation has been a centric means for our logical reasoning.

But it was just after C that we finally had some tool in this case, a programming language which was able to understand the way we think and could store and process the building blocks of our reasoning. Finally, we got a language that resembles our thoughts and ideas, and all of this happened when we got structures. C structures werent perfect in comparison to the encapsulation mechanisms found in modern languages, but they were enough for us to build a platform upon which to create our finest tools.

You know that every programming language has some Primitive Data Types (PDTs). Using these PDTs, you can design your data structures and write your algorithms around them. These PDTs are part of the programming language, and they cannot be changed or removed. As an example, you cannot have C without the primitive types int and double.

Structures come into play when you need to have your own defined data types, and the data types in the language are not enough. User-Defined Types (UDTs) are those types which are created by the user and they are not part of the language.

Note that UDTs are different from the types you could define using typedef. The keyword typedef doesnt really create a new type, but rather it defines an alias or synonym for an already defined type. But structures allow you to introduce totally new UDTs into your program.

Structures have twin concepts in other programming languages, for example, classes in C++ and Java or packages in Perl. They are considered to be the typemakers in these languages.

So, why do we need to create new types in a program? The answer to this question reveals the principles behind software design and the methods we use for our daily software development. We create new types because we do it every day using our brains in a routine analysis.

We dont look at our surroundings as integers, doubles, or characters. We have learned to group related attributes under the same object. But as an answer to our starting question, we need new types because we use them to analyse our problems as a higher level of logic, close enough to our human logic.

Here, you need to become familiar with the term business logic. Business logic is a set of all entities and regulations found in a business. For example, in the business logic of a banking system, you face concepts such as client, account, balance, money, cash, payment, and many more, which are there to make operations such as money withdrawal possible and meaningful.

Suppose that you had to explain some banking logic in pure integers, floats, or characters. It is almost impossible. If it is possible for programmers, it is almost meaningless to business analysts. In a real software development environment that has a well-defined business logic, programmers and business analysts cooperate closely. Therefore, they need to have a shared set of terminology, glossary, types, operations, regulations, logic, and so on.

Today, a programming language that does not support new types in its type system can be considered as a dead language. Maybe thats why most people see C as a dead programming language, mainly because they cannot easily define their new types in C, and they prefer to move to a higher-level language such as C++ or Java. Yes, its not that easy to create a nice type system in C< but everything you need is present there.

Even today, there can be many reasons behind choosing C as the projects main language and accepting the efforts of creating and maintaining a nice type system in a C project and even today many companies do that.

Despite the fact that we need new types in our daily software analysis, CPUs do not understand these new types. CPUs try to stick to the PDTs and fast calculations because they are designed to do that. So, if you have a program written in your high-level language, it should be translated to CPU level instructions, and this may cost you more time and resources.

In this sense, fortunately, C is not very far away from the CPU-level logic, and it has a type system which can be easily translated. You may have heard that C is a low-level or hardware-level programming language. This is one of the reasons why some companies and organisations try to write and maintain their core frameworks in C, even today.

This extract is taken from Extreme C, by Kamran Amini, published by Packt. You can find out more and buy your copy by visiting here.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located5G Expo,IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, andCyber Security & Cloud ExpoWorld Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

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Extreme C book extract: Exploring structures and user-defined types in C - Developer Tech

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30-year-old Harvard study on longevity: Five daily habits to follow for a healthy living – Republic World – Republic World

Scientists at Harvard have reportedly been studying human anatomyfor years. From researching about how to eat healthy to studying what goes on inside our body, they know it all. Recently, they came up with research which discovered the 5 rules an individual should follow to lead a healthy life. The study done by Havard is 30-year long study which gives 5 rules one should compulsorily follow:

Also Read:Healthy Diet: Benefits Of Protein And Fiber In Your Diet

The Lancet stated that 1 in every 5 death globally is associated with a p[oor diet. It is believed that we consume double the recommended amount of processed meat which affects our body causing obesity and other body-related diseases. The Havard T.H Chan School of Public healths study found out that adding enough fruits, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart attack stroke by 20 per cent.

Exercising regularly is something every dietician or nutritionist might suggest. According to the World Health Organization, People who are not active enough have 20-30 per centincreased their risk of death. Experts in this field have advised that a healthy adult should exercise for 150 minutes every week.

Also Read:Eye Health And Eyesight: 5 Best Foods To Include In Your Diet

A good diet and exercising regularly helps you maintain a healthy weight. The United Nations study has found out that around 800 million people around the world are obese and the number has tripled since 2016.

It is recommended to not intake too much of alcohol. The taste of wine has been found to engage the brain than any other human behaviour. The Scripps research institute found that an ingredient in red wine can also help to reduce stress but it should be consumed in moderation, preferably justa glass or two. Nature claimed that a moderate amount of wine can be beneficial and too much alcohol is a health risk.

Also Read:Food Combinations That May Sound Weird And Gross But Taste Delicious

Smoking is injurious to health and every individual is aware of it. If a person quits smoking, within a year of quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease drops by half. After 10 years, the risk of lung cancer falls by 50 per cent, as claimed by the World Health Organization. Giving up smoking also reduces the chance of impotence and infertility among people who wish to be parents. WHO also found that maintaining these healthy habits add 12 years of life for men and 14 for women.

Also Read:Fitness Tips: Indoor Exercises That You Can Do To Stay Healthy And Fit

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30-year-old Harvard study on longevity: Five daily habits to follow for a healthy living - Republic World - Republic World

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Missing Link To Longevity Discovered In The Plant Kingdom – Texas A&M University

lead researcher Dorothy Shippen, Ph.D., (left), graduate student Jiarui Song, first author (center) and postdoctoral fellow Claudia Castillo-Gonzlez, second author (right).

Texas A&M AgriLife

A breakthrough discovery by Texas A&M University and Arizona State University professors could provide a key component in understanding the human aging process and even aid in the battle against cancer.

Dorothy Shippen, Ph.D., is a University Distinguished Professor and Regents Fellow in Texas A&MsDepartment of Biochemistry and Biophysicsand withTexas A&M AgriLife Research, College Station.

Shippen co-led a study with Julian Chen, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, Arizona State Universitys School of Molecular Sciences. First author, Jiarui Song, is a graduate student with Shippen.

Their study, The conserved structure of plant telomerase RNA provides the missing link for an evolutionary pathway from ciliates to humans, is being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Our discovery of this key component of the telomerase enzyme in the plant kingdom provides an evolutionary bridge, and a novel path forward, for understanding how humans keep their DNA safe and enable cells to divide indefinitely, Shippen said.

Moreover, since plants often evolve interesting solutions to fundamental biological problems, some of the lessons we learn from plant telomerases may provide new ways for addressing stem cell disease and cancer.

We found a core component of the telomerase enzyme that had been missing all these years, Shippen said. And by finding this component in plants, we not only learn new lessons about how telomerase evolved, but we also open the door to learn new things about the human enzyme.

Back in 2001, Shippen published a paper outlining the discovery of the catalytic subunit of the telomerase enzyme from plants. The catalytic component is one of two absolutely critical parts of the enzyme, and it is now very well understood.

However, the second component, the RNA subunit, that provides the enzyme with information about what to do with chromosome ends, was missing.

Our new discovery is the RNA subunit of telomerase from the plant kingdom. In the plant telomerase RNA, we can now see the signatures for the human telomerase and telomerase from simple organisms like bakers yeast and the microbes in pond scum.

The missing piece always was this subunit. Now that we have found the correct one, its opened up a lot of interesting insights.

Plants have different, innovative solutions to so many biological challenges, and insight into these may provide important clues on how human telomerase is regulated, she said.

We can study the telomerase enzyme more deeply and see so much more now, and it can help us understand how the human enzyme is going to work. It really is this missing middle ground.

In the 1930s, Barbara McClintockwas studying the behavior of chromosomes in maize and was one of the first scientists to appreciate the importance of telomeres.The Shippen Labin the 1990s followed up on the pioneering work of McClintock in model plant systems and discovered the telomerase enzyme, which is required for maintaining these structures on the ends of chromosomes.

Shippens longtime studies on telomerase, which play an essential role in chromosome stability and cell proliferation capacity, has led her to be considered the worlds expert in plant telomere research.

The telomere is like a biological clock. There is a certain amount of telomeric DNA at the end of chromosomes. As cells divide, they lose part of this DNA.

She has likened telomeres to the plastic tip on the end of a shoelace they form a protective seal on the ends of chromosomes in plants and animals. Like the plastic tip that wears out, allowing the shoelace to fray and become hard to use, so does the telomere break down in most cells in the human body over time.

The telomerase enzyme is capable of replenishing the lost DNA at chromosome ends and it is available in cells that are immortal, Shippen said. Its active in the stem cells, but not active in other places of the body normally.

Theres a whole connection between immortality and telomerase that needs to be studied.

Why is telomerase only active in stem cells, turned off in other cells and why does it get reactivated in cancer cells? Shippen said. Weve learned a lot about the human telomerase from pond scum, but plants can provide still more clues because their growth and development is so plastic. If you cut a flower from a plant growing in the garden, it will grow another flower. But if you cut off the tip of your finger, you wont be growing a new one.

Its a big mystery.

But Shippen said the plant telomerase is still very similar to the human telomerase.

It is remarkable that even in plants, telomerase is active only in cells that need to divide many times.

She expects that what is learned in the plant system will ultimately be translatable and have significant impact in human medicine.

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Missing Link To Longevity Discovered In The Plant Kingdom - Texas A&M University

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Can the gut microbiome unlock the secrets of aging? – Medical News Today

A new study has shown how the gut microbiota of older mice can promote neural growth in young mice, leading to promising developments in future treatments.

The research group, based in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, transferred the gut microbiota of older mice into the gut of younger mice with less developed gut fauna.

This resulted in enhanced neurogenesis (neuron growth) in the brain and altered aging, suggesting that the symbiotic relationship between bacteria and their host can have significant benefits for health.

The past 20 years have seen a significant increase in the amount of research into the relationship between the host and the bacteria that live in or on it. The results of these studies have established an important role for this relationship in nutrition, metabolism, and behavior.

The medical community hopes that these latest results could lead to the development of food-based treatment to help slow down the aging process.

In this study, the research team attempted to uncover the functional characteristics of the gut microbiota of an aging host. The researchers transplanted gut microbiota from old or young mice into young, germ-free mouse recipients.

The findings appear in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The gut microbiome changes as the host ages, and to investigate how it evolves, the research team transplanted the gut microbiome from 24-month old mice into young 6-week old, germ-free mice.

Professor Sven Pettersson at the NTU Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine led the team.

After 8 weeks, Prof. Pettersson and colleagues observed increased intestinal growth and increased neurogenesis in the mice's brain.

To control for the experiment, the team transferred the gut microbiome of young mice into germ-free mice of the same age. The researchers did not observe the same effects as they saw in the mice that received the gut microbiome from older mice.

The team also conducted molecular analysis on the rodents and found they had increased levels of butyrate. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that gut microbes produce.

Butyrate is beneficial for health and can protect against diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, obesity, and diabetes.

The enrichment of certain gut microbes and increased bacterial fermentation of dietary fibers in the colon led to these increased levels of butyrate. In turn, increased butyrate levels stimulated the production of pro-longevity hormone FGF21.

FGF21 is a fibroblast growth factor that plays an important role in regulating metabolism. Increased levels of FGF21 were also associated with increased AMPK and SIRT-1 activity and reduced mTOR signaling.

This is important because increased AMPK leads to increased uptake of short-chain fatty acids during cellular metabolism. SIRT-1 also regulates homeostasis and can protect against a variety of human disorders.

Reduced mTOR can protect against human cancers and various inflammatory diseases.

The researchers went on to explore the effect of gut microbiome transplants on the digestive tracts of the mice.

Normal aging of intestinal tissue reduces the viability of intestinal cells. This has associations with reduced mucus production, which can lead to increased cell damage and death.

The researchers found transplanting the microbiome of older mice to younger mice led to an increase in the length and width of the villi, which are small structures that make up the wall of the intestine.

The mice who had received the microbiome from the older mice also had a longer colon and a longer small intestine than the control group that had received the microbiome from other young mice.

The researchers also gave the young germ-free mice butyrate by itself and observed that it led to similar increases in neurogenesis and intestinal growth.

Scientists from around the world have reacted to these results. Dr. Dario Riccardo Valenzano, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Germany, says, "These results are exciting and raise several new open questions for both biology of aging and microbiome research."

Some of these questions, says Dr. Valenzano, include "whether there is an active acquisition of butyrate-producing microbes during mice life and whether extreme aging leads to a loss of this fundamental microbial community, which may be eventually responsible for dysbiosis and age-related dysfunctions."

In addition, Professor Brian Kennedy, Director of the Centre for Healthy Ageing at the National University of Singapore, says, "It is intriguing that the microbiome of an aged animal can promote youthful phenotypes in a young recipient."

"This suggests that the microbiota with aging have been modified to compensate for the accumulating deficits of the host and leads to the question of whether the microbiome from a young animal would have greater or less effects on a young host."

"The findings move forward our understanding of the relationship between the microbiome and its host during aging and set the stage for the development of microbiome-related interventions to promote healthy longevity."

Prof. Brian Kennedy

These results are highly promising for future progression in the treatment of diseases associated with aging, such as neurogenerative disorders.

They suggest that the composition of gut microbiota and dynamics is age sensitive and that the response to microbial cues in early life differs significantly from that in later life.

The results imply that the gut microbiota of older hosts with metabolic homeostasis may support host health. In contrast, in adults with type 2 diabetes, the gut microbiome may induce inflammatory pathways.

Limitations to this study include the fact that microbiomes may change over the course of the study, even under controlled experiments, such as the ones presented here.

It is also possible that other microbial metabolites and cellular pathways have a role to play, but researchers did not investigate these in this study.

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The disruptive power of disruption – Daily Pioneer

Times require a very dispassionate analysis of the value of what the word means as a process

Till about 20 years ago, the word disruption evoked mixed responses at best and a deep sense of disapproval at worst. Gradually the environment began to change and disruption became a word of preferred choice for many. An increasingly large number were trying to use it, in context and out of context, hoping to cover themselves in a revolutionary aura. There were occasions when people would come around mouthing and flaunting disruption. It was tom-tommed by many that unless there was disruption it would be very difficult to improve things.

The point which was totally lost in this melee was that nothing can be debunked lock-stock and barrel. There were thinkers who saw this point and started talking of selective disruption. What was not quite clear was how this selection would take place. On what distinguishing trait would something be preserved or debunked? This was particularly the case with technology or more fundamentally, about methods of work.

In this vantage point of perception, one element was missing. The element could be termed concurrent multilinearity. Simultaneously, different eras can exist. Their concurrency does not take away the merit of one or the relevance of another. This is especially true for nations such as India, which has in one time-frame multiple eras co-existing. One can have a space launch centre and for carrying certain kinds of provision to that centre, bullock carts could be used. In a wider canvas one could think of a person getting to a jetty on a horse carriage and taking from that jetty a speedboat. Essentially there is nothing contradictory in this. People living in different technological or cultural eras can and do co-exist. This is what the mosaic of life is about. Different identities and paradigms can function together. Of this, India is merely one example. Examples of various levels of technological growth of communities have been cited above. This can be equally true for extended families. As longevity increases, the lifestyle of a 70-year-old need not really be programmed as a life of a 22-year-old. In between the life of somebody at the age of 46 would be quite a mixture of the two lifestyles.

The senior citizen would not be necessarily living out a smart phone and a youngster may find the mannerisms of a 70-year-old quite outmoded, if not strange.

These are everyday examples, for this no survey is needed. The proposition of the real worth of disruption however, is a different one altogether. Times require a dispassionate analysis of the value of disruption as a process. They also require considering how significant is a collective push for technological upgrade.

Given the ground conditions, it seems fairly obvious that many behavioural templates or universes of ethnography could be in operational co-existence. Above all, this would have to be done respectfully, if not with utmost understanding.

Under such circumstances to make a fetish of disruption as a process appears palpably illogical if not an expendable overkill.

If one enlarges the theatre of action and issues of sustainability become larger, it may even be arguable that in certain cases disruption of disruption may itself be a desirable goal.

Consider the energy intensive lifestyles of post-industrial communities: Space heating, space cooling, fuel guzzling vehicles and energy-intensive devices of cooking and more. Together this lifestyle has brought the advanced civilisation to a brink. The operational brink in several territories is being operationally averted, only through expropriation of energy resources from developing communities and countries.This kind of a world order cannot be sustainable, in the long run, let alone be desirable.

As things stand, there is an obvious adulation of the way tribal communities have preserved their environment and live life at a reasonable level of simplicity. They still appear contented, have better longevity and better community life.

If the forest cover of this planet is not as much a victim of predatory lifestyles, it is not the least because of the parts of the globe which the tribals inhabit and from where they havent been chased away by gun-toting brigades of the avaricious versions of the human race. The celebration should be of tribal stoicism and tenacity and how they have preserved their lifestyles, their culture and their livelihoods. Perhaps the world is ready to turn a full circle.

Whether or how this will take place only time will tell. But one thing which is clear if there is anything that is clear disruption is not necessarily a positive term. It has to be used selectively and with conscious thought to eliminate the banal elements to human progress and impediments to a larger framework of happiness. Riding disruption as a value is not only unnecessary but can be dangerous.

(The writer is a well-known management consultant)

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The disruptive power of disruption - Daily Pioneer

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Surprising No One, The FBI’s Watchdog Says The Agency Is Handling Its Informants Improperly – Techdirt

from the consummate-professionals dept

Confidential informants are only as trustworthy as their law enforcement handlers. The FBI isn't the only agency to have problems with handling confidential human sources (CHSs), but it's one of the more notorious, thanks to its botched handling of James "Whitey" Bulger.

This questionable legacy lives on, as the FBI's Inspector General reports. "Whitey" Bulger is name-checked early on in the report [PDF], setting an appropriately cautionary tone for the rest of the document.

The FBI loves its CHSs. Without them, it can't radicalize random people into arrestable would-be terrorists. Without the assistance of criminals, it apparently can't go after other criminals. While a certain amount of criminal activity is necessary to maintain cover, the FBI doesn't appear to be keeping close tabs on its informants, which isn't going to minimize collateral criminal damage during investigations.

The FBI spends $42 million a year paying CHSs but doesn't seem to care whether that money is being wisely spent. The actual number of informants the FBI employs is redacted, but the IG notes that 20% of these are "long-term," having been used by the FBI for at least five years.

The longevity of CHSs is a concern that the FBI doesn't seem to be concerned about. The longer the FBI uses the same informants, the greater the risk they'll be exposed. But beyond that, there's the problem of familiarity. Every five years, CHSs are supposed to be assigned new handlers in order to prevent agents from becoming too close to their charges. The FBI isn't doing this. In fact, the FBI doesn't appear to track length of service with any accuracy, which means the agency potentially has more "Whitey" Bulgers on its hands: criminals whose close relationship with a single handler allows them to engage in far more criminal activity than guidelines (and human decency) would allow.

According to this report, the FBI's inability to properly track CHSs has led to a backlog of required "enhanced reviews" -- the validation process put in place to ensure proper handling of long-term informants. To make matters worse, the FBI unilaterally decided to remove "long-term" as a potential risk factor for CHSs, allowing these problematic informant-handler relationships to fly under the radar.

The few people performing CHS validations are further restricted by FBI policy. It's almost as though the FBI has decided that what it doesn't know can't hurt it. The limitations prevent reviewers from accessing anything more than one year of files, denies them access to other helpful FBI databases, and discourages them from providing recommendations or drawing conclusions from the limited info they can actually access.

The FBI also has problems with automation. The system does not automatically flag CHSs when they hit the five-year mark. This has to be done manually by the informant's handler. Without this feature, handlers and reviewers are left in the dark about CHS longevity, which further hinders the review process and adds to the backlog the FBI will never catch up to at its current review pace.

The FBI knows this is a problem but continues not to care.

Although the FBI has considered improvements to address the shortcomings, it has not taken corrective action by implementing an automated mechanism in Delta.

This refusal to fix this issue has lead to further failures up the line. Handlers with long-term CHSs are supposed to obtain approval from Special Agents in Charge (SAC) for continued handling of these informants. Since the system doesn't flag long-term informants, SACs are not automatically notified and CHSs continued to be handled by the same agents in direct violation of FBI policy.

The problem becomes exponential once FBI field offices are factored in. CHSs in use at field offices are subject to the same review, but review personnel at FBI HQ appear to believe they are there to grease the wheels, not act as oversight.

Several FBI officials suggested to us that there is a risk that field offices may avoid the selection of certain CHSs for validation review because the field offices may wish to continue using those CHSs despite the presence of particular risk factors. In fact, one of these officials told us that the field offices may be sending "softballs," meaning field offices may be sending CHSs lacking any significant risk factors.

It's not just the field offices. The FBI is actively avoiding documenting negative information about CHSs to subvert the justice system. It's just that simple.

[O]ne Intelligence Analyst told us that he was permitted to recommend a CHS receive a polygraph or operational test to the handling agent by phone by not permitted to document the recommendation in the CHS's validation report. Additionally, multiple FBI officials told us that they believe that field offices do not want negative information documented in a CHS file due to criminal discovery concerns and concerns about the CHS's ability to testify. For example, one FBI official told us that some U.S. Attorney's offices will not use a CHS at trial if there is negative documentation in the CHS's file.

The Inspector General obviously recommends the FBI stop doing this sort of stuff but it's obviously already entrenched in the FBI's culture. Officials recognize field offices are harboring shady CHSs but have done almost nothing about it.

Then there's the infosec part. Confidentiality is key to the handling of confidential human sources. But FBI agents don't appear to care that they're putting their sources at risk by carelessly handling communications. Since no policy specifically forbids the use of government equipment to contact CHSs, many agents simply use their FBI-issued phones. The use of electronic communication methods is discouraged, but simply telling people they shouldn't do something is rarely an effective deterrent.

In addition, the central CHS database is on a shared site that grants access to personnel not involved with handling human sources. This increases the risk to CHSs by eliminating the "confidentiality" of the arrangement. The only thing mitigating this increased risk is the fact that the database is riddled with errors and incomplete information. Incompetence might save the day as CHS files improperly accessed may not contain enough accurate information to expose a confidential source. Win-win, I guess.

That the FBI concurs with all of the OIG's recommendations is hardly heartening. Included in this review are recommendations issued by the OIG six years ago in response to CHS handling issues that occurred in 2006. To date, the FBI has only implemented five of the eleven recommendations from the 2013 report.

It's a mess. And it's a mess the FBI continues to make worse. The underlying problem appears to be the FBI's unwillingness to cut loose informants who might be a liability. The only effort that gets made in these situations is to find some way to work around an already-very permissive system to ensure agents can retain the CHSs. A system that fails to flag risk factors or periodic review periods is the kind of system that allows the FBI to engage in business as usual with just enough plausible deniability to avoid the few accountability tripwires built into the system.

Filed Under: fbi, informants

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Surprising No One, The FBI's Watchdog Says The Agency Is Handling Its Informants Improperly - Techdirt

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Have Researchers Finally Figured Out Whether Dogs Are Good For Us? – Forbes

God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he'll be there.~The Reverend Billy Graham

Its peculiar that the origin of the word dog is essentially unknown. It is true that theories abound such as that the term was derived from the Old Germanic Word docga stemming from the word dukkon meaning power and strength. But in the end, theyre just theories. Essentially a domesticated wolf, the dog is a member of the Canidae family, like the jackal and the fox. And about seven centuries ago, the Old English word hund became hound and represented all domestic caninesa word now used mainly to identify a type of dog used just for hunting.

A beautiful, young Weimaraner with his head cocked to the side isolated on a white background.

But it wouldnt be a stretch if the simplest response from Quora commenter Raenna Foeller makes the most sense"We dont know. We are unable to trace it back very far. All we have is unproven conjecture.or the most profound, that in fact God, spelled backward, is dog.

And that particular fact would make a recent study all the more acceptable.

The paperwhich reviewed 10 different studies, spanning decades and including thousands of participantsshowed a strong correlation between owning a dog and a lower risk of death over the long term.

Now its important to keep in mind that studies of this nature cant take into account all the variables, as theres countless factors that go into pet ownership and longevity, says the Methuselah Foundation, an incubator and sponsor of mission-relevant ventures, research, projects and prizes to accelerate breakthroughs in longevity. But despite the confounders, dog owners can rejoice knowing their furry friends are not only adding to their smiles, but also possibly to their lifespan.

Its also important to note that many, many studies have taken on the question of whether pets are good for us, and that the American Heart Association (AHA), in 2013, concluded while there is significant evidence that having a pet, particularly a dog, seems to be heart-healthy, one should not be purchased or rescued simply for that purpose.

The new study, Dog Ownership and Survival: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, was conducted by Caroline K. Kramer, MD, PhD; Sadia Mehmood; and Rene S. Suen, all of the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada.

The Mount Sinai researchers reviewed studies published between 1950 and 2019 to evaluate the association of dog ownership with all causes of death, with and without prior cardiovascular disease (CVD) as well as cardiovascular mortality.

Dog ownership has been associated with decreased cardiovascular risk, Kramer, the studys lead author, wrote about researchers reasons behind analyzing the data. Recent reports have suggested an association of dog companionship with lower blood pressure levels, improved lipid profile and diminished sympathetic responses to stress. However, it is unclear if dog ownership is associated with improved survival as previous studies have yielded inconsistent results.

In the review of data from some 3.8 million participants in 10 studies with a 10-year follow-up, researchers found that dog ownership was associated with a 24% risk reduction for all-cause mortality as compared to non-ownership. And 6 studies demonstrated a significant reduction in the risk of death. Kramer noted that in individuals with prior coronary events, living in a home with a dog was associated with an even more pronounced risk-reduction for all-cause mortality. Additionally, when researchers analyzed only studies evaluating death from heart disease, dog ownership conferred a 31% risk reduction for cardiovascular death.

The Mount Sinai researchers concluded owning a dog quite possibly does the heart good. Dog ownership is associated with lower risk of death over the long term, which is possibly driven by a reduction in cardiovascular mortality, they wrote.

So have scientists finally answered the question of whether dogs are good for us? The jury may still be out.

In a 2014 article in the Veterinary Nursing Journal, June McNicholas, PhD, wrote: Few people are better placed to appreciate the importance of pets to older owners and the bond that exists between them and their pet, than those working in veterinary practices. For example, how the owner depends on the pet for companionship and the opportunity to give love and feel loved; or how a pet may be part of an integral routine of pet care and self-care. Quite simply, how the pet is so central to the lives of many older people that it is something they cannot visualize being without.

A psychologist who specializes in the relationships between people and pet animals and the effects of those relationships on the physical and psychological well-being of pet owners, McNicholas has published papers in a number of academic journals on her research of the effects of pet loss, the role of pets in child development, animal assisted therapy, and the role of pets to people recovering from serious or life-threatening illness.

For example, her 2005 study examined evidence for a link between pet ownership and human health and the importance of understanding the role of pets in people's lives.

In that study, McNicholas cited research dating from the 1980s that popularized the view that pet ownership could have positive benefits on human health. Those benefits ranged from higher survival rates from heart attacks and reduced risk of heart disease to a significantly lower use of physician services and an overall better physical and psychological well-being in community-dwelling older people.

No studies have found significant social or economic differences between people who do or do not have pets that would adequately explain differences in health outcome, McNicholas wrote, leading to the belief that pet ownership itself is the primary cause of the reported benefits.

McNicholas went on to say research up to 2005 had failed to fully replicate the benefits of the 1980s studies, however. Still, she wrote, The main issue may not be whether pet ownership per se confers measurable physical benefits but the role that pets have in individual people's livesnamely, the contributions of the pet to quality of life or the costs to well-being through a pet's death. This issue embraces a broader definition of health that encompasses the dimensions of well-being (physical and mental) and a sense of social integration.

McNichols concluded that people do not own pets specifically to enhance their health, rather they value the relationship and the contribution their pet makes to their quality of life.

A 1992 study compared risk factors for heart disease in pet owners and nonowners in 5,741 participants at the Baker Medical Research Institute in Melbourne. That study found that pet owners had significantly lower systolic blood pressure and plasma triglycerides than nonowners. Researchers concluded that participants in their study had lower levels of risk factors for heart disease which were not explained by cigarette smoking, diet, body mass index or socioeconomic profile.

And a 2018 analysis of 11,233 community-dwelling adults aged 65 years or older in Ota City, Tokyo, Japan found that compared with respondents with no history of pet ownership, motor fitness and walking activity are greater for dog owners and social function is higher for dog and cat owners. Researchers postulated that caring for a dog or cat might be an effective health promotion strategy to increase physical activity and facilitate social participation among older adults.

In 2013, the American Heart Association (AHA) released a Scientific Statement to critically assess the data about the influence of pet ownership on the risk of heart disease. Authors published the statement on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Clinical Cardiology and Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing. The statement was endorsed by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, American Society of Hypertension, American Society for Preventive Cardiology, National Heart Foundation of Australia, Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association, and World Heart Federation

In its analysis, the AHA concluded that while pet ownership is probably associated with decreased risk of heart disease, and pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, may have a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, people should not adopt or rescue a dog for the primary purpose of reducing heart disease.

The AHA said they had problems with the methodological issues in many studies of pet ownership, though they admitted there are a number of methodologically sound studies, and a substantial body of data that suggests that pet ownership is associated with a reduction in CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk factors and increased survival in individuals with established CVD.

The data are most robust for a relationship between dog ownership and CVD risk reduction, particularly dog ownership and increased physical activity, the AHA wrote. Whether this is attributable to dogs being the pets most commonly owned and studied, dogs being the pet most likely to increase their owners physical activity, or additional other beneficial effects of dog ownership is uncertain, the AHA reported. Given that most studies are non-randomized, it cannot be determined with confidence whether the reduction of CVD risk factors with pet ownership is merely associative or causative, although there are plausible psychological, sociological, and physiological mechanisms for causation for many of the associations, particularly dog ownership and increased physical activity.

In the end, the AHA said that more research is needed including studies of risk factor modification, primary prevention and pet acquisition as part of a strategy to reduce the risk of heart disease.

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Have Researchers Finally Figured Out Whether Dogs Are Good For Us? - Forbes

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The Future of Meat – Truthdig

The Meat Question: Animals, Humans, and the Deep History of Food

A book by Josh Berson

In the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Aunt Voula, played by Andrea Martin, learns that her nieces fiance is a vegetarian. She says, He dont eat no meat?WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE DONT EAT NO MEAT? Oh, thats OK, thats OK, I make lamb!

Its funnyor is it? For those of us who eschew consuming animals and their byproducts, its hard to understand why most people today still enjoy eating flesh, seeing meat as something rather than someone. In The Meat Question: Animals, Humans, and the Deep History of Food, Josh Berson digs deep, literally, going back to the earliest times of human existence to find out when and how and why our relationship with animals as food began. The book considers three questions: 1) Did meat make us human? 2) Is growing affluence the cause of increased meat consumption? and 3) Will we see the end of meat?

As a vegan for 31 years and vegetarian for even longer, I rejoice with every new study or book published on the devasting impact that eating animals has on our health, quality of life and longevity. With hundreds and hundreds of scientific references, surely, I think, people will reduce or eliminate their meat consumption in order to reduce their risk of chronic disease. So many people have shared their stories in films, books and websites on how they reversed their heart disease or diabetes, achieved a normal weight, and regained their lives, by discovering a healthy, plant-based diet.

And yet, the consumption of animal flesh and animal byproducts continues to rise. The world population is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 and people will be devouring more meat than ever before. There is no longer enough land mass on Earth to allow livestock to graze freely before slaughter. Today, the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation, AKA the factory farm) is the answer, but for the individual animals being raised in a CAFO for food, it is hell on earth.

What about the environment? As stinking lagoons of untreated livestock excrement are piled higher and deeper, surely we would realize our folly of raising tens of billions of animals for food. But no, it seems no amount of air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, rainforest destruction, aquifer depletion, soil exhaustion, species extinction, etc. can curtail our desire for consuming flesh.

Click here to read long excerpts from The Meat Question at Google Books.

I have waited for decades for the discussion on climate change to heat up, for it to be considered for regulation in government policy and for it to headline mainstream news on a regular basis. Are we there yet? The late Robert Goodland, lead environmental adviser at the World Bank Group, wrote passionately and profusely about climate change and how we could all, simply and easily, prevent our demise by choosing plants instead of animals for food. Mitigating global warming by changing our diet was his plea, because it would buy us time to transition our factories and modes of transportation to sustainable energy sources.

Was his message heard? Do we have the capacity to hear this message?

Berson acknowledges the devastating impact on health, environment and animals due to meat consumption very briefly, early in his books prologue. He writes as if we all know this information already, no need to elaborate in detailalthough he does paint the nightmarish image of current reality, transporting cattle from Australia to China by air! We use all our best inventions, concentrating cattle into airplanes to satisfy the gluttonous desire for flesh while making a nice profit. Is no thought made of the reckless use of energy resources or abundant release of greenhouse gas emissions in this scenario? We have created our own little shop of horrors at home on Earth, responding to the escalating cry, Feed Me!

Are we who we areare we humanbecause we eat meat? To address the first question, Berson presents to us a dry and academic history of humankind. This is not easy reading. As we travel to periods 1 million to 5 million years ago, the text is riddled with archeological terms that even an above-average reader would not be familiar with. It takes patience to comprehend it all, moving back and forth through ancient and unfamiliar times.

Berson explains that our evolutionary history was a result of our diet versatilitybeing able to find and consume a variety of plant and animal-based foods, available in different periods and locations. Berson addresses the tenuous relationship between the consumption of meat and the evolution of human brains:

Where do we get the energy to run our big brains? Over the past twenty-five years, this has been a key question in evolutionary anthropology. For many observers, our expensive brains represent exhibit A in the case for meats role in human evolution. Meat, the argument goes, supported encephalization [the evolution of large brains] [But] the brain cant do much with the energy in meat. The brain relies on glucose as its primary fuel the energy in the lean meat of wild ungulates is mainly in the form of protein. The body has a limited capacity to convert amino acids into sugars. Protein does not represent a sustainable source of energy for the maintenance of nervous tissue.

Berson goes on to explain that energy is not the sole expense of the human brain, which is 50% to 60% lipid by dry mass. DHA (omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid) is vital in supporting the high lipid content of our brains. DHA can be hard to find in human dietsits primary direct source is aquatic foods. It can, however, be synthesized from alpha-linolenic acid (LNA). [C]linical evidence indicates dietary LNA represents a more-than-adequate source of DHA for the growth and maintenance of the central nervous system, Berson writes. Where are the terrestrial dietary sources of alpha-linolenic acid? Its highly concentrated in chloroplast membranes, so leafy green plants represent a strong source, as do mosses, the fatty tissue of herbivores that consume these things, and the usual range of oilseeds, including flax, hemp, and walnuts.

He concludes, Meat may well have played a role in buffering the vagaries of access to a higher-quality diet in early humans. But it wasnt because it was essential to brain development. Nor is meat essential to how we eat in the future.

Later in the book, we arrive in the present day. Here, we can scrutinize our history more carefully as the abundance of evidence improves resolution. Question 2 is addressed: Is growing affluence the cause of increased meat consumption? To balance Western influence dominating the telling of human history, Berson writes, I offer an Asia-Pacific perspective on the modern meat economy. My aim is to nudge the food systems literature away from the North Atlantic and toward those parts of the world whose tastes, expertise, and climate will dominate global patterns of change in diet over the next two or three generations. We learn that affluence alone does not drive the demand for meat. Rather a complicated economic and political system has been created that forces those disempowered, impoverished individuals to choose the convenience of cheap meat because they have no access to affordable alternatives.

Berson writes, Until we recognize that marginalized humans and animals raised under industrial conditions occupy coordinate roles in a single system of economic violence, we will make no progress unworking meats power.

In the epilogue we learn that Berson has been a vegetarian for 25 years and a vegan for 19, except for a handful of exceptions. He admits his original motivation was unclear but over time it was about reducing his footprint: I wanted to limit my claim on the Earths resources to levels that would allow the largest number of people to enjoy the quality of life that I took for granted. He began to question his reasons for being vegan after about a decade, which became the motivation for this book. The dispassionate tone throughout is intentional; Berson desired to present information as objectively as possible, without judgment that might alienate the reader.

Will we ever see the end of meat? The author believes if humanity survives, its possible that few if any animals will be on our plate. After reading The Meat Question, I have a better understanding of why it is not effective to use single issue arguments like health, environment, climate change and animal cruelty to convince people to reduce or eliminate their animal consumption:

To imagine a world in which humans no longer get any part of their subsistence from animals is to imagine a world where the bond of economic necessity, of precariousness, between humans and animals has been succeeded by a bond of mutual regard, among humans and on the part of humans for other living things. This is a more radical vision than that which underlies arguments for the cessation of meat eating on grounds of health, or carbon footprint, or animal sentience.

Berson shows us how to think about eating animals in broader terms. Gambling on food prices with agricultural derivatives and investing in agricultural land acquisitions negatively impact the access to adequate food. Meat consumption is one piece of a complex and violent capitalist system.

There was one question I couldnt help but ask myself while reading The Meat Question: Are humans naturally violent? Berson concludes with this question as well, asking whether human beings are fundamentally cruel, condemned to reduce one another to lumps of meat. He acknowledges that if we dont want to accept systemic violence as our reality, a divergence will be required, in diet among other things, as radical as any we have experienced before.

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The Future of Meat - Truthdig

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Breakthrough Gene Therapy Clinical Trial is the World’s First That Aims to Reverse 20 Years of Aging in Humans – PRNewswire

MANHATTAN, Kan., Nov. 21, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Libella Gene Therapeutics, LLC("Libella") announces an institutional review board (IRB)-approved pay-to-play clinical trial in Colombia (South America) using gene therapy that aims to treat and ultimately cure aging. This could lead to Libella offering the world's only treatment to cure and reverse aging by 20 years.

Under Libella's pay-to-play model, trial participants will be enrolled in their country of origin after paying$1 million. Participants will travel to Colombia to sign their informed consent and to receive the Libella gene therapy under a strictly controlled hospital environment.

Traditionally, aging has been viewed as a natural process. This view has shifted, and now scientists believe that aging should be seen as a disease. The research in this field has led to the belief that the kingpin of aging in humans is the shortening of our telomeres.

Telomeres are the body's biological clock. Every time a cell divides, telomeres shorten, and our cells become less efficient at dividing again. This is why we age. A significant number of scientific peer-reviewed studies have confirmed this. Some of these studies have shown actual age reversal in every way imaginable simply by lengthening telomeres.

Bill Andrews, Ph.D., Libella's Chief Scientific Officer, has developed a gene therapy that aims to lengthen telomeres. Dr. Andrew's gene therapy delivery system has been demonstrated as safe with minimal adverse reactions in about 200 clinical trials. Dr. Andrews led the research at Geron Corporation over 20 years ago that initially discovered human telomerase and was part of the team that led the initial experiments related to telomerase induction and cancer.

Telomerase gene therapy in mice delays aging and increases longevity. Libella's clinical trial involves a new gene-therapy using a proprietary AAV Reverse (hTERT) Transcriptase enzyme and aims to lengthen telomeres. Libella believes that lengthening telomeres is the key to treating and possibly curing aging.

Libella's clinical trial has been posted at the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM)'s database. Libella is the world's first and only gene therapy company with a clinical trial posted at that aims to reverse the condition of aging.

On why they decided to conduct its project outside the United States, Libella's President, Dr. Jeff Mathis, said, "Traditional clinical trials in the U.S. can take years and millions, or even billions,of dollars. The research and techniques that have been proven to work are ready now. We believe we have the scientist, the technology, the physicians, and the lab partners that are necessary to get this trial done faster and at a lower cost in Colombia."

Media Contact:Osvaldo R. Martinez-ClarkPhone: +1 (786) 471-7814Email:

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william-bill-andrews-ph-d.jpg William (Bill) Andrews, Ph.D. Dr. Bill Andrews is a scientist who has spent his entire life trying to defeat the processes that cause us to age. He has been featured in Popular Science, The Today Show, and numerous documentaries on the topic of life extension including The Immortalists documentary.

Related Links

Dr. Bill Andrews speech at RAADfest 2018 (Sept 21, San Diego, CA)

bioaccess: Libella's CRO partner in Colombia.

SOURCE Libella Gene Therapeutics, LLC


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Breakthrough Gene Therapy Clinical Trial is the World's First That Aims to Reverse 20 Years of Aging in Humans - PRNewswire

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