Thursday November 15, 2018
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Uganda To Start Experimental Vaccine For Ebola Along With DRC

The Ebola virus causes a severe and often fatal hemorrhagic fever.

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Congo, Uganda, ebola
A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a boy who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA
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Uganda will begin administering the experimental Ebola vaccine to approximately 2,000 health care and front-line workers along its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, the Ministry of Health said.

Uganda has no confirmed cases of Ebola, but as the threat worsens in the DRC, the preventive measure is seen as necessary because of heavy border traffic. More than 20,000 people cross from the DRC into Uganda and back every week, the ministry says.

“The public high risk of cross-border transmission of Ebola to Uganda was assessed to be very high at national level,” said Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s minister for health. “Hence, the need to protect our health workers with this vaccine. Currently in Uganda, we have 2,100 doses of the vaccine available at the National Medical Stores and preparations are in high gear, including training of the health workers that are to be targeted.”

Congo, Uganda, ebola
A health care worker from the World Health Organization, left, gives an Ebola vaccination to a front line aid worker who will then vaccinate people who might potentially have the virus, in Mbandaka, Congo, May 30, 2018.
VOA

Many of those crossing the border are from the DRC’s North Kivu province, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Ugandan border, where armed conflict has made fighting the Ebola outbreak a challenge.

The vaccine, known as rVSV, has been used during recent outbreaks in Congo, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and is currently being dispensed in North Kivu.

Uganda’s Health Ministry says the Ebola vaccine will be given with the consent of Uganda’s health workers, since it is being used outside of clinical trials.

Congo, Uganda, ebola
Photo taken Sept 9, 2018, shows health workers walking with a boy suspected of having the Ebola virus at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Eastern Congo. VOA

Despite being experimental, the vaccine is absolutely safe, Aceng says.

“The vaccine is a recombinant vaccine genetically developed by getting a particle of the Ebola gene, replacing a particle of the gene with another virus called the vesicular stomatitis virus. The vaccine therefore is a genetically modified organism, that is able to replicate and cause antibody production against the Ebola virus but not cause Ebola virus disease,” she explained.

Also Read:Ebola Not A Global Health Emergency: WHO

The Ebola virus causes a severe and often fatal hemorrhagic fever.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has confirmed 250 cases of Ebola — causing 180 deaths — and another 41 suspected cases. (VOA)

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NASA to Send Organ-on-Chips To Test Human Tissue Health in Space

Called a micro-physiological system, a tissue chip needs three main properties

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NASA to send tissue chips to space to test human health, genetic changes. Flcikr

NASA is planning to send small devices containing human cells in a 3D matrix — known as tissue chips or organs-on-chips — to the International Space Station (ISS) to test how they respond to stress, drugs and genetic changes.

Made of flexible plastic, tissue chips have ports and channels to provide nutrients and oxygen to the cells inside them.

The “Tissue Chips in Space” initiative seeks to better understand the role of microgravity on human health and disease and to translate that understanding to improved human health on Earth, NASA said.

“Spaceflight causes many significant changes in the human body,” said Liz Warren, Associate Program Scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) in the US.

Kepler, NASA, tissue
This illustration made available by NASA shows the Kepler Space Telescope. As of October 2018, the planet-hunting spacecraft has been in space for nearly a decade. VOA

“We expect tissue chips in space to behave much like an astronaut’s body, experiencing the same kind of rapid change,” Warren said.

The US space agency is planning the investigations in collaboration with CASIS and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

Many of the changes in the human body caused by microgravity resemble the onset and progression of diseases associated with ageing on Earth, such as bone and muscle loss. But the space-related changes occur much faster.

That means scientists may be able to use tissue chips in space to model changes that might take months or years to happen on Earth.

Parkinson's Disease, Kepler, NASA, tissue
A researcher takes a tissue sample from a human brain at the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s UK Tissue Bank, VOA

This first phase of Tissue Chips in Space includes five investigations. An investigation of immune system ageing is planned for launch on the SpaceX CRS-16 flight, scheduled for this year.

The other four, scheduled to launch on SpaceX CRS-17 or subsequent flights, include lung host defense, the blood-brain barrier, musculoskeletal disease and kidney function.

In addition, four more projects are scheduled for launch in summer 2020, including two on engineered heart tissue to understand cardiovascular health, one on muscle wasting and another on gut inflammation.

Kepler, NASA, tissue
“Detecting life in an agnostic fashion means not using characteristics particular to Earth life,” said Heather Graham at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Pixabay

Also called a micro-physiological system, a tissue chip needs three main properties, according to Lucie Low, scientific programme manager at National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences in the US.

Also Read: NASA’s Ralph Will Explore Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids in 2021

“It has to be 3D, because humans are 3D,” she explained.

“It must have multiple, different types of cells, because an organ is made up of all kinds of tissue types. And it must have microfluidic channels, because every single tissue in your body has vasculature to bring in blood and nutrients and to take away detritus,” she added. (IANS)