Thursday, 25 September 2008

Can Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) be "passed on" from Mother to Child?

In short, the answer to the question was most probably no, or is it maybe?

The science in this area remains gray in nature, although as of today, there has been yet another twist in this scientific saga.


A number of media reports have appeared today ("n" of 39 at the point of writing) in relation to a case in question in Spain.

Whilst not the first (Court Injunction in place - one wonders why), this is the latest confirmed case of vCJD having occurred twice in the same family. Mother and son. Both have sadly passed away.

I am privy to two "releases" which I have been allowed to share on the web.

The first comes from the Spanish CJD Registry and the second from the UK's National CJD Surveillance Unit.


Let us spin back to the Queniborough cluster in the UK, reported in 2001.

None of the victims were related.


As has now been reported, in Spain, two of the four victims were related.

Moreover, if as Collinge et al has suggested many times, the incubation period of vCJD is in excess of > 40 years, why did the younger Spaniard succumb and die before the older (and related patient) did?


Some food for thought here.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Message from Dr. Zerhouni to nonprofit advocacy organizations

Message from Dr. Zerhouni to nonprofit advocacy organizations - please pass on at his request‏

24 September 2008 17:35:18

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Today, with mixed feelings, I wrote to inform NIH scientists, administrators, staff, contractors, and trainees that at the end of October, I will be leaving NIH to explore new opportunities and to devote my attention to several writing projects.

I wanted to also thank and recognize the commitment and tireless efforts of the non profit organizations like yours that help NIH accomplish the great work that it does. For over six years, I have enjoyed and benefited from your thoughtfulness, dedication, and devotion to our shared mission: to make a difference in the nation’s health through the discovery of new knowledge. Together, we have faced great challenges posed by the unique times in which we live and where there are profound changes and shifts in the scientific environment, Government, and the world.

Each one of you is among the most extraordinary, committed group of individuals with which I have ever interacted. Whenever NIH asks for your ideas, input, suggestions, and, participation, you answer the call, regardless of the nature and the complexity of the question, concern, or issue under discussion. You have every right to share credit for the agency’s achievements as you form a unique and essential component of our success. It is also because of you that NIH is one of the true “wonders of the world” and takes such a prominent place in rankings of Federal agencies.

NIH is the “Nation’s Medical Research Agency,” and with your continued guidance, support, and volunteerism, the agency will remain on the leading edge of health, medical, and scientific advancement. Our continued success depends on nothing less. I want to sincerely thank you for your kind support during my tenure.

Please feel free to distribute this message to your officers, advisors, and members.

Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

The Days of Print Are (almost) Over

Yesterday, whilst trawing through the stunningly massive content of the Scribd library/database, I found three e-books in PDF format of particular interest.

To me? absolutely, people at large but also, the 230 or so who form part of the "The Life Scientists" room over at FriendFeed.

Now, I've uploaded a few bits and bobs to Scribd, but until yesterday, had not properly searched the database. I found this (Scribd database) quite astonishing in terms of level/depth, and content generally.


Being someone who is very interested in Glycobiology, that was what I threw into the Scribd engine.

Result was 102 at full article level.

What I found more interesting however was the fact that I was able to download some rather amazing resources which I simply had to alert others to and did so via FriendFeed. These were:-

1) Oxford Dictionary of Science Fifth Edition (893 pages - free PDF download)

2) 'Encyclopedic Reference of Genomics and Proteomics in Molecular Medicine' (2117 pages - free PDF)

and a drum roll please - thanks

3) 'The Reactome Book' - "A textbook of biological pathways" (3252 pages - free PDF)

Now of course, we should be talking quality not quantity and correctly so. That said, it didn't take long to virtually browse through this e-library and bookmark a few items of interest, not so much for myself I hasten to add, but to share with actual life scientists.

So, in the space of a couple of hours, that's ~ 7000 pages of quality text book material, shared to others. Cool.

Science Blogging 2008: London - Keynote Speaker - Ben Goldacre, Video

Whilst we await formal video footage from the Royal Institution of Science Blogging 2008: London, I noted that Cameron Neylon has uploaded some further footage to the web.

For those who haven't seen it, Dr Ben Goldacre's blog is called Bad Science.

Without any further ado, here is Ben's 30 minute talk:-

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Pork Connective Tissue and Ham Tortellini

A quick scan in the fridge this morning to allow me to ponder what to have for dinner when I got back from work. Oh, there’s a couple of packs of fresh Tortellini. Of the two, the Pork and Ham one was the more appealing. Purely out of interest, I glanced at the ingredients label, and boy, I wish I hadn’t done that !!!!! Why? Here’s why.

About half way through the list, pork connective tissue is clearly labelled. Now doesn’t that sound darn tasty.

During my 4 year stint with a UK Charity from 2001 – 2005, this led to a number of meetings/discussions/emails with the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) right up to the highest level. This was all namely in light of BSE related issues. As such, McDawg is more than probably a bit more knowledgeable than “your man on the Clapham Omnibus” about specified risk material, mechanically recovered meat etc.

I’ve known for a while that the FSA have been calling for more informative labelling generally including providing more information about country of origin, actual type of meat/meat product etc.


So what exactly is mammalian connective tissue? I had a rough idea in the sense that this is not meat. Here’s the wiki page on connective tissue.

Also see the following from the Guardian in 2006; How processed is the food you eat?

“'Reclaimed' meat, such as pork connective tissue, is common in cheap meat-based products such as paté and sausages. Made from the last scraps of meat and offal left on the carcass after the more nutritious cuts of meat have been removed, it goes through a number of processes in order to make it palatable.”

That aside, I’ve enjoyed eating “Pork” and Ham/Mascarpone etc. Tortellini for a long time and will probably return to this again but just not right now.

Having said all that, now that I'm back home and have re-read the label, things ain't as bad as I initially thought. The product does actually contain Pork AND Pork Connective Tissue. I'm still too grossed out though by the yuk factor at the moment so I'll probably freeze the product and consume at a later date.

So, I can really say nothing more than….. “Pork Connective Tissue and Ham Tortellini…….. you are the weakest link – goodbye”.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008


Great full page article in today's (free) Metro newspaper entitled, "Web TV: The next generation". As far as I know, the article is not online.


From the abstract:-

From Saturday, telly addicts will be able to experience a new on-demand service from the BBC: iPlayer is introducing 'Series Stacking', allowing us to catch up on every episode of selected shows. As the BBC's controller of Multiplatform, Simon Nelson, puts it: 'Now, you'll be able to join a series half way through, following a friend's recommendation, for example, and catch up on all the previous episodes - or watch them all in one go over a weekend.' But how does that fit in with BBC's remit? And with the onset of internet TV, will a new small screen be taking pride of place in our living rooms? In a brave new broadcasting world, we've produced a TV guide that might prove more handy than any schedules.

The BBC introduced their revolutionary iPlayer service about 8 months ago. Fantastic service I have to say. As matters stand, content is currently available for 7 days after broadcast.

From Saturday however, this changes big style. IMHO, this is a truly bold and significant move (in the right direction) by the BBC and other will surely follow. Over the years, I've made more connections with folks at the BBC than any other media corporation/company and news like this is most certainly "music" to McDawg's eyes/ears and that of millions of others.

Follows the opening para from Fiona MacDonald's excellent article:-

With digital taking over our viewing has gone extra-terrestrial. In the eight months since it fully launched, BBCi Player has proven a bigger hit than anticipated: according to the internet service provider PlusNet, streaming is now 168.9 per cent higher per day. 'In five years, it's likely people will watch content on their computer, whenever they want.' says PlusNet's Neil Armstrong. 'Traditional TV schedules will be thrown out of the window. '


iPlayer is expected to have 1 million daily users by Christmas, yet none of them need a TV licence if they watch material after it has been broadcast on TV.

The article also contains news of other cool developments to follow in the near future all of which are equally exciting.

Well done BBC !!!

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Why Glycobiology? Here's why

Ever since McDawg was introduced to the field of Glycobiology early 2003, he's remained firmly hooked.

I spotted an excellent new article today via Google News from Science Daily.

In my chosen role as a Patient Advocate, this stimulated me to post something of substance on one of the Forum's that I frequent from time to time. The one in question is 'closed' to non-Forum users since those who are registered, are mostly patients/carers and data/personal information is free for all to see. It's called, PatientsLikeMe. PLM for short.

I've been part of PLM's ALS/MND community for nearly two years now.


After that introduction, whilst I've not posted anything on that particular Forum for a while, follows a copy of my most recent comment, uploaded today.


Earlier on today, I spotted something rather important so I wish to bring this up on PLM. This is most probably worthy of a thread of it's own, however, I've chosen to post it on this thread after giving this some thought.

This to me is the most recent further evidence of the importance of Glycobiology as a research field and the wide implications this has when studying diseases both objectively and subjectively.

Rather than starting a new thread however, I thought it was not a bad idea to continue to post items related to Glycobiology under the same roof as it were - hence, why I chose here.

Before I get to the reason for posting this entry, I wish to continue the theme of updating progress (re. my research) generally as per previous posts on this thread.


I can report the following:-

a) Last Saturday, Professor Peter Murray-Rust and I met in person for the first time and got stuck into writing our Manuscript "Access to Published Medicine: A Universal Right" Thankfully, our paths met at this Conference and as was publicly announced in the wrap up session by Peter, the stage was set for writing. Up till then, we had made some progress online, but in the end, it required a physical meet up to get things moving along.

Here we are chatting during a Manuscript writing 'tea break':-

(the Prof is the bearded one)

b) I continue to make progress on points b) and c) above. A few other co-authors (undergrad to PhD to Professor) from various countries have joined those who have already agreed to write up the next two chapters of this set of Manuscripts. One is namely ALS/MND orientated, the other, a more general review of protein misfolding diseases and published/unpublished data/research. All of my/our research is destined for Open Access Journals.

c) I'm particularly attracted to the ethos of Open Science. Discussing and sharing thoughts/ideas/data about new research ahead of publication in a peer reviewed journal - very much what we do here at PLM !! There's a great new feature article about this entitled "Era of scientific secrecy nears its end" over at MSNBC which is well worth a read. Moreover, having at last met (also last weekend) the key scientists who are leading the way, this drew it home to me that this can be done, and is being done.


So, without further ado, here is:- "Do 68 Molecules Hold The Key To Understanding Disease?" from Science Daily 4th Sept 2008. I have previously had contact with both Prof Jamey Marth and Prof Ajit Varki who are world leaders in the field of Glycobiology.

"Like the periodic table of elements, first published in 1869 by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, is to chemistry, Marth’s visual metaphor offers a new framework for biologists."

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

McDawg's Flickr

Over the last day or so, I've been playing around with Flickr much more than in the past. Indeed until now, I only uploaded one photo there.

I've now shifted over a much larger "n" of images over to Flickr though, and if this works (and it should do - and it does), follows my first embedded Flickr slide-show evah.

For maximum enjoyment, you will need some fine music/wine of your choosing, throw them kids away (for a bit) and dim the lights etc.

Musician/Patient Advocate.

Most of my Flickr creations thus far are "virtual covers" for my musical recordings (where I trade under the name of Steck) which have been uploaded at MacJams.

I'm Male and Single.

Galafray, Andromeda
but I drop by Somerfield's every second Wednesday - allegedly.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

...and this is Planet Earth

The below came through in the form of a thing called email whilst I was away at a Conference.

Astrology is not a McBlawg foci, but I couldn't resist posting this as it's so interesting.