Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Stating ”race” enforces racism? Should the US Census ask people to state “race”?   Leave a comment

Stating ”race” enforces racism? Should the US Census ask people to state “race”?

On the web site of Time magazine, US Census Bureau Director Robert Groves is interviewed http://ti.me/jxmHcq. He is reporting that a large number of US citizens state more than one race. In Europe we do not state “race” when counting the population, because it is so difficult to understand what it means. And it supports feelings such as racism.

The New York Times had a series of articles on the topic earlier in the year http://nyti.ms/hf5trL. More and more Americans do not know what to tick when they have to state “race”. Personally I think the term “race” should be skipped, as it more describes social structures and history, rather than genetically important differences. Actually, race implies that the individuals “phenotype” is related to “geographic ancestry” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_(classification_of_humans). The definition is certainly drifting away from the genetic definition, towards a more social explanation. However, it is also discussed that scientific studies through the twentieth century has found no biological basis for the classification of race, and perhaps a primary factor in racial classification has been the social conventions established during the colonial period. For example, what is “African American”. There is no clear definition to be found, except “at least one ancestor from sub-saharan Africa”. If we reverse that definition, it is absolutely clear that Barack Obama is IRISH (next time, plese do not tick “black or African American”! Actually, tick nothing…

I think the US Census should stop requiring citizens to state“race” because it is a term that enforces racism http://bit.ly/ilkptl. One could just as well describe “culture”, because that would better explain how society develop and how cultural interactions shape the world. Most NY-times readers seem to agree http://nyti.ms/e6tE6k.

Posted May 31, 2011 by Jan Lötvall in behaviour, psychology, race, science, US Census

The core of science and politics, wise words by Bertrand Russel   Leave a comment

There is a lot of politics in science, and arguing about this that and the other. We scientists see it all the time, and perhaps we sometimes forget the core of science: Finding the Truth. And only the Truth… And when we find the truth, there is not much to argue about… As long as we agree with it…

And in politics, there is one core principle that is important. Live in peace!

These two core principles of humanity were well described by Bertrand Russel in this old interview, when asked “what advice would you like to give to future generations”:

Thank you Maneck for directing me to this video.

In the exosome field we are searching for consensus to be able to establish the truth. By using crowdsourcing. Are we trying to bridge science and politics, to avoid conflict. Maybe. And to find the truth and provide opportunities to communicate that truth.
From my previous blogpostings:
http://bit.ly/kOLMAv
http://bit.ly/kSn7lM

finding consensus on exosome methodology   1 comment

I have just sent this out to a large group of exosome researchers, to try to find consensus on how to deal with differences in opinion on how to purify exosomes. I hope to get a strong response.

Dear Exosome Friends,

You are copied into this e-mail (blinded copy) because you have expressed interest in exosomes, and/or because you attended the 2011 IWE in Paris. Some of you may receive duplicates, simply because I had two different lists of e-mails that were only partly overlapping.

Firstly, I would like to remind you to mark your calendars for next year’s International Workshop on Exosomes, IWE, which will be held in Gothenburg Sweden 18-21 April 2012. We have booked a very nice venue, with a large lounge for posters and interactions, beyond the lecture that will accommodate a significantly greater audience than we had in Paris. We will do our very best to arrange the most enjoyable experience possible, including the scientific programme as well as all social aspects. Specifically, we will try to arrange a special meeting evening, with a pleasant programme. We have also been able to pre-book hotels at very good rates indeed, and we can promise a very enjoyable meeting. For info on Gothenburg, go to: http://www.goteborg.com/en/?epslanguage=en . The meeting has no web-site yet, but we will develop one in good time.

On another note, I think it would be very timely to develop a consensus on different aspects of methodology and characterization of exosomes in biological fluids and culture medium, which I also mentioned in a discussion session during the IWE in Paris. There are several ways of approaching such questions, one being placing four to seven “super-experts” in a room, and let them sit there until they have decided what their consensus is on the topic at hand. An alternative approach is to “crowdsource”, to see where the consensus lies, but using a much larger community. Such techniques are starting to be utilized in the development of consensus reports/guidelines for clinical treatments of disease, and so far it seems that the “average” opinion often ends up as being “reasonable”, based on current knowledge. In Medicine, this approach increases the possibility of also those that are less inclined to publically express opinion, to actually influence recommendations.

We are therefore suggesting that we should try the “crowdsourcing” approach to reach a consensus also in the exosome field. My impression is that there are wide differences on how methods of purifying exosomes are pursued, for example, and different opinions on such details can have profound influence on the possibilities to publish the research. Also, it would be much easier to compare work, if the exosomes were extracted in similar ways in similar experiments. The aim of this activity would thus be to establish a “reasonable” definition on how to characterize exosomes, based on current knowledge and opinion, including methods to isolate and describe exosomes. We are therefore reaching out to each and every one that we could identify in the exosome community to ask you to be involved. Please therefore consider the following:

1) Are you willing to participate in this project in a coordinating group/ writing group, that will finalise the questionnaire, and author any publication at a later stage? If so, respond to this e-mail to both me and Margareta, renaming the e-mail “exosome coordination”.
2) Are you willing to participate in a “test round” of a questionnaire that the coordinating group develops? Again, e-mail me and Margareta, and rename the e-mail “exosome test round”.
3) I strongly encourage every single one to participate in the final questionnaire, to really influence the future of exosome research. The questionnaire will of course be web based, and will give the possibility of written comments, that can be signed or not. Any comments will be retained in the public domain adjacent to any publication, probably as web-supplements. Expect the questionnaire to be circulated in a month or so, depending on how well the questionnaire development goes.

If we are successful in this process, we could really develop a strong “position” of the whole exosome community, which will make it much easier for any editor of any scientific journal to understand what defines exosomes, not accepting inappropriate nomenclature or flawed techniques. We certainly have to accept slightly different protocols depending on material, origin and focus of the research.

The principles of crowdsourcing can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing

Please feel free to call me or contact me by e-mail, if you have any concerns, thoughts or suggestions. I hope you will be as positive about this approach as I am.

Kind regards
Jan

Exosome meeting in 2012, Gothenburg, Sweden   5 comments

Exosome meeting in 2012

We are very excited to host the 2012 International Workshop on Exosomes in Gothenburg, Sweden April 18-21. The intention is to include any science involving exosomes, but also to invite those working with microvesicles to contribute, to more clearly find ways to distinguish differences in the biology of these fundamentally different vesicles released by cells.

Should the meeting be focused on specific aspects of these vesicles? Should we have a “topic”, perhaps focusing on exosomes and microvesicles in immunology or in cancer or in general cell biology? Personally I think the field of exosomes is still quite small and is only starting to grow, why we should avoid too much focus in 2012. I hope this exosome meeting really can bridge over research field, and create new collaborations between researchers that otherwise would not meet.

Maybe a new community will be created?

I can already now say that a special effort will be made to create good and interactive poster sessions during the meeting.

 

 

Posted March 19, 2011 by Jan Lötvall in exosomes, gene therapy, medicine, RNA, science

asthma in athletes needs to be treated correctly   3 comments

http://www.expressen.se is writing that WADA is planning to possibly take away the classification of formoterol as restricted drugs for athletes. That is probably a wise approach. EAACI will still pursue its plan to discuss such decisions, since asthmatics may have risk of taking long-acting beta-2-agonists only without concomitant use of inhaled glucocorticoids (http://bit.ly/gLBxAL ). The question is thus not so simple. Asthma must be treated correctly, otherwise athletes may be at risk.

Expressens current comments:

http://www.expressen.se/sport/2.701/langdskidor/1.2346078/bjorgens-medicin-bort-fran-dopinglista

Posted February 27, 2011 by Jan Lötvall in Allergy, asthma, EAACI, medicine, science, Treatment, Uncategorized

Judging research networks, its complexities and social interactions in the process   Leave a comment

I have just had the pleasure (and hard struggle) to together with almost another 40 scientists judge advanced research networks in life sciences. It was a three day experience where really good science, built into extensive networks of different size, was judged by an international committee.

Less than a year ago, the call for applications went out. People have spent months preparing these applications. Many of us have read, re-read, and re-re-read the applications. Applications that were 100-600 pages long. Applications that describe research of different fields, at different levels, and that bridge different fields and are built in fundamentally different ways.

A series of questions come up.

Firstly, are networks helping the efficiency of science, or are their creation built on politicians believing that networks will create better science? I am sure they are, where the abundance of study material is short, where exceedingly large cohorts are required for statistical power, or sometimes perhaps for efforts that require rapid interventions.

Secondly, can a network with 25 participating centres be compared with networks containing three?

Thirdly, can ecology and plant genetics be compared to diseases, disease genetics and disease management?

Fourthly, can any reviewer, or any series of reviewer, get a holistic view of a 600 page application?

The answer to all of these questions is of course: NO. These things cannot be directly compared, and there will always be some unfairness in the process, but it still had to be done. So we did it, and we reached a reasonable consensus on a rough scoring. There is no question that the best applications received top scores, and are likely to receive funding. And the least well thought-through applications received the lowest scores. The problem lies with the “borderline” scored projects. Those that are good, but perhaps do not contain mainstream research. Those that are excellent, but perhaps not in every single element of the structure. Will these projects receive funding? Fortunately, we did not have to decide that detail. That will come at a later date, and will be decided by a different group of individuals. Good luck! I hope to see generosity.

Another interesting experience was the classical development of group interaction. I am talking about the group of reviewers present at the meeting. A typical social group interaction process begins (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_group), with inevitable series of events occurring. The first day, everyone is very polite, smile extensively, and create relationships at the level of smaller groups. The second days, relationships begin to get established, and even friendship-like interactions develop.  The third day, conflicts and fights for resources start appearing. That is what we experienced, and this is what Wikipedia so well describes in the development of any social groups.

From the two perspective of review-group sociology and political implementation of network-based applications, it is not surprising that randomness occurs in the allocation of resources to research. Sometimes the resource allocation (or lack of it) is fair, sometimes it is not.

Proposal: The 2nd International Workshop on Exosomes (IWE) 2012 April 18-21st organized by the Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg   2 comments

Proposal:  The 2nd International Workshop on Exosomes (IWE) 2012 April 18-21st organized by the Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg.

The Workshop will be held in the Conference Center Wallenberg, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

http://bit.ly/fEYri9

The Conference Centre is located at the campus area of the Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg about 2 km from the city centre, which is less than 5min by tram.

Conference Centre Wallenberg, Medicinaregatan 20A, Göteborg, Sweden

The Conference Centre Wallenberg is a modern, centrally located and flexible multi-function venue for conferences, meetings and events.

The two main lecture theaters hold 350 and 105 seats respectively. Both are equipped for video conferencing. There are two smaller studios for videoconferencing, and a number of re-configurable seminar rooms, seating from 12 to 40. The seminar rooms can be used as stand-alone venues or in conjunction with the lecture theatres.

The can be used for exhibitions. There is space for up to 16 exhibitors and around 60 fixed poster screens.

The dining room serves luncheons, dinners and buffets to order for up to 430 persons. Coffee and refreshments may be served in the foyer at breaks.

The premises are accessible and safe for disabled people.

If more then 350 people are interested we can provide a larger venue at Göteborg Convention Centre in the city centre close to Hotel Gothia Towers

HOTELS

Gothenburg has a large number of hotel rooms in different price categories can been reserved in Göteborg, and with arrival April 18th and at low preferential prices for the Meeting. All rooms have private bath or shower.

More info to come in due course after the decision process is over.

Posted February 10, 2011 by Jan Lötvall in EAACI, exosomes, invention, medicine, RNA, science

What is “asthma endotype” – asthma is a syndrome encompassing several disease entities, “asthma endotypes”   Leave a comment

What is “asthma endotypes”?

Asthma is a syndrome encompassing several distinct diseases – asthma endotypes

I placed a blogposting here last week with the abstract included http://bit.ly/h6B2ff

In a recent publication in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, EAACI together with AAAAI publish a PRACTALL paper discussing the issue of understanding the subgroups of asthma http://bit.ly/e0Trz5. The terminology “asthma phenotype” has received extensive attention over the last years, but the term “phenotype” relates only to “observable characteristics”, and does not take into account which core molecular mechanism is causing the disease in each individual. This publication attempts to encompass those thoughts into a series of examples, and is arguing that a fundamentally different approach to studying clinical mechanisms of asthma. Please read it and comment, the debate is crucial to move forward.

www.theallergynews.com

http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(10)01858-0/abstract

Expensive treatment (anti-IgE) reduces cat-dander induced asthma symptoms, and allows the allergic individual to be exposed for a longer time   Leave a comment

Investigators in the US and Canada are reporting on a study where they have exposed individuals with a history of cat-induced asthma to the allergen in a controlled room environment.

http://bit.ly/e5zH2i

Then they have allocated the patients treatments with either placebo or Omalizumab (anti-IgE, market name Xolair), which reduces the binding of IgE to mast cells. A good protective effect could be observed with the anti-IgE therapy, reducing the drop in lung function with close to 50%. Symptoms from the eyes and nose were also overall reduced with the anti-IgE therapy, which reduction in number of sneezes recorded. In a clinical setting, anti-IgE can really reduce allergic symptoms, and it is a pity that it is such a very expensive therapy, varying from USD7000-USD40000 / year (http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0115/p341.html). Even though the therapy is effective, it is certainly very difficult to prove cost-effectiveness unless the treated patient has severe allergic asthma with repeated exacerbations.

Blocking IgE can also be used to protect patients against side effects during allergen immunotherapy (allergen vaccination: http://bit.ly/htKUF0). With such approaches, it is possible that immunotherapy could be further enhanced, and could allow more severely allergic individuals to be treated with such approaches. It is also likely that the very allergic individuals would tolerate higher doses of immunotherapy, with possibly greater efficacy. This aspect is further discussed here http://bit.ly/gjWmQ9 .

Omalizumab is a monoclonal antibody, and is obviously expensive to produce, and has been expensive to develop as a therapy. However, if it became less costly, a vast population of allergic individuals would be likely to benefit with this treatment.

http://www.expressen.se/nyheter/dilemmat/1.2322905/dilemmat-del-3-kattallergi

Posted February 6, 2011 by Jan Lötvall in Allergy, asthma, EAACI, medicine, science, Treatment

What are the mechanisms of severe asthma – is it about cells in the lung? Or is it about endotype of asthma?   2 comments

What are the mechanisms of severe asthma – is it about cells in the lung? Or is it about endotype of asthma?

American colleagues have recently studied a large clinical cohort of severe asthma, suggesting that specific cells, so called chymase positive Mast cells (MCTC; Balzar et al.; Mast Cell Phenotype, Location, and Activation in Severe Asthma- Data from the Severe Asthma Research Program, AJRCCM)

http://ajrccm.atsjournals.org/cgi/content/short/183/3/299?rss=1

Will one cell explain severe asthma. It is unlikely. However, this finding is important, as the additional understanding of mast cells and mast cell function probably is going to help find new treatments in asthma, as well as other allergic diseases http://bit.ly/fkOx0C.

Personally, I am confident that mast cells will be involved in one or several specific endotypes of asthma http://bit.ly/h6B2ff and http://bit.ly/h6B2ff , but is unlikely to be involved in any patient within the asthma syndrome. Whether the mast cell will be the driver of the disease, or a downstream player in the process, remains to be determined.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mast_cells

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endotype

Posted February 6, 2011 by Jan Lötvall in Allergy, asthma, EAACI, health care, science, Uncategorized